Article written by Amanda Henderson,

Image courtesy of Pixabay


Would you like to do something with your family that promotes everyone’s growth as individuals, helps your community, and strengthens your family bond?  Have you considered volunteering?  It turns out, families that do charitable work together can do all that and more.


For your kids.  According to some studies, there are a number of benefits children receive from volunteering.  Children experience an improved regard for responsibility, enhanced self-esteem, and increased interest in learning.  Their moral compass is better, they are less inclined to participate in unhealthy behaviors, and more inclined to make better life choices.  Children can learn new skills to apply later in life as they develop their careers.  Their work ethic grows and they are more apt to be involved in service-oriented activities throughout their lives.


For you.  There are a great many mental health benefits from volunteering.  Some professionals note reduced stress, an increase in self-esteem and improved basic trust.  You might foster skills you wouldn’t otherwise enjoy the opportunity of developing, and you can lower your risk for depression.  Your sense of accomplishment grows along with your sense of purpose, and you can even add years to your life.


Your family bond.  Your children learn from your example, and rarely do you get better chances for putting your values into action.  You can use charitable work as an opportunity to demonstrate life lessons to your children.  Volunteering together also enhances teamwork among family members and can improve communication.  And as some experts point out, doing volunteer work together is a great way to fulfill the need for family “quality time.”


Getting started.  Talk with your children about volunteer opportunities in your area and make sure everyone is allowed to give input.  Opt for something you can do as a group and on a routine basis.  Remember you don’t need to set aside an entire day for volunteering; even a few hours counts.  You might even choose some simple tasks for getting started, like having the whole family pitch in to find gently used items that can be given away to charity.  It’s a chance to get your house more organized and do something for a worthy cause.  Redfin notes many of the items you might be inclined to discard can be rehomed in a variety of charitable organizations, such as homeless shelters, thrift shops, and animal shelters.  Discuss with your children where they would like to see the items go and allow them to help make deliveries.


Make it real.  Sometimes concepts such as homelessness can be difficult for children to grasp.  PBS suggests making a field trip with your children so they can see first-hand what you mean about the needs in your community.  Showing children the reality of who their work benefits can help generate their enthusiasm and understanding.  Visit a homeless shelter, senior center, food kitchen, or animal shelter so they can make a clear decision about what sort of work they want to do and better recognize the need.  Look for teachable moments throughout your visits.  Point out the value in the various organizations and the opportunities for work, explaining how communities and charities rely on volunteers.  For instance, children may not be aware of how isolated senior citizens can become.  Help them understand how an organization such as Meals on Wheels can provide not only nutritious food, but also visitors and smiles to those who might otherwise be living lonely lives.


Get involved.  The benefits of doing charitable work are tremendous to your family members, both as individuals and as a team.  Find some activities you will all enjoy together and weigh your options.  2018 can be a great year for you, your children, and your community!


To find out how to volunteer for Meals on Wheels Western Michigan, please visit the Volunteer Page.