Summer Volunteering for Children and Adolescents

As you decide on summer activities for your children and teenagers, consider scheduling in some volunteer time for your children.  Most people typically think that volunteering is just for teenagers.  It is also good for middle-schoolers to get involved in, too.

Volunteer Choices

Volunteer opportunities extend beyond just being a hospital volunteer.  Encourage your child to consider food pantries, working with animals (pet stores, Humane Society, veterinary centers), working with the elderly in retirement communities or nursing homes, or working in a crisis nursery facility.  If your child likes sports, there are volunteer opportunities through the Special Olympics or with sports leagues that need buddies or assistants to help children with disabilities.  Oftentimes, summer camps may provide another opportunity for children to provide some assistance.  Summer camps usually employ teenagers to be camp counselors, but check and see if opportunities exist for volunteer junior camp counselors.  If your adolescent daughter does not have a particular interest, you might consider the National Charity League (www.nationalcharityleague.org).  This organization is structured for mothers and daughters to volunteer together throughout the year.  Finally, you might check out children’s museums, such as aquariums or science centers to see if they could use assistance with their educational programs, such as having a classroom teaching assistant.  If your child or teenager has an interest in something, don’t be discouraged if there is not a publicized volunteer position.  Who knows, your child might be able to create his own position!

Volunteer Time

Deciding how much to volunteer can depend on your child’s availability, age, and the volunteer activity.  For example, volunteering with an athletic team to be a sports buddy for children with disabilities might require a weekly obligation, which might be fun if your child has a friend interested in volunteering, too.  Even if your child is not wild about volunteering a lot, consider an activity that requires one or two times of obligation.  They might realize they like volunteering and want to do it more.   Some schools also require service projects, so your teen might have a certain number of volunteer hours to fulfill for school.

Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteering provides an excellent opportunity for children to step outside their own world and see how life is for others who are less fortunate.  It can foster empathy and compassion.  We know from research that the simple acts of helping others can improve one’s mood.  By connecting with others in a meaningful way and sharing time and talents, people report feeling less anxiety and depression about things in their own life.  So, if your child has anxiety or depression, volunteering may have a very therapeutic effect.  It also is a great way to introduce children to the idea of being charitable and giving back to society.