Loving Children: FamilyCares Tips for Successful Volunteering

Family volunteering is a great way to spend real quality time together, developing strong family bonds, opening channels of communication and sharing experiences that create proud family memories for years to come. Debbie Spaide, founder of FamilyCares, offers the following tips to help you get started and maximize your family’s success.

Choose hands-on projects that offer children an opportunity to feel ownership in the giving process.

If Mom buys a toy and Joey drops it in the box at school, the giving ownership is mostly Mom’s. But if Joey chooses the gift, wraps it and perhaps even makes a card to go with it, the giving ownership is mostly Joey’s.

Ensure success by using projects that are simple and short-term.

Complicated projects that require long-term commitment often run short on enthusiasm with children. Choose projects that require skills your child is capable of managing and that can be accomplished in a short period of time.

Maximize teachable moments by following your child’s charitable interests.

The most successful family projects respond to an interest on the part of the child. Listen for clues about issues that concern your child. Watch the news together and ask for his/her opinion on current events. Find easy-to-read stories on social issues such as homelessness, hunger, and aging to share during family meals.

Build self-esteem by creating caring memories to last a lifetime.

Use a scrapbook to keep photos of your caring projects, thank you notes, cute quotes from your children, and your own responses to each project. This memory book will become a wonderful source of esteem development as your child grows older.

Keep the tone fun and rewarding.

Doing charity projects should be an experience your child remembers as uplifting and fun. Tell jokes, give compliments, and laugh often as you work together to help others. Children will remember the “mood” more than the labor.

Join forces with other families who want to volunteer together.

The more the merrier! Charity projects are even more fulfilling when you work on them with your family friends. You can host a “My Family Cares” party with multiple projects for families to work on, or have a “Family Care Day” in your community.

Be a good example of caring behaviors.

Let your children see you volunteering. Talk about ways to help others with adults and in your children’s presence. Avoid complaining about your volunteer work. Tell your kids how good it feels to care.

Remember caring is a process, not a product.

It is the thought that counts. Highlight your child’s intentions and efforts in charity activities. Try to ignore those times when the final product is less than perfect. If necessary, you can repair the product secretly before delivering it.

Reinforce your child’s compassion after each project.

Have an informal family meeting, perhaps over ice cream, to discuss the project, what you learned, what you felt, and what you will do next. Talking about the project will put words to the feelings and give the experience more power.