Teach kids how to be part of their community

Little girl on mothers sholders.
Posted on: October 12, 2017

Sarah Cavanaugh

Congratulations! We’ve survived the first month of back to school. September has come and gone with its new routines, after school activity schedule, and in some cases, the first of the school year bugs (crawling and viral).

It is officially autumn and the world is exploding with Pumpkin Spice and Christmas countdowns. I love this time of year. For me, October is about family and it is an ideal time to teach children of all ages about charity and volunteering.

When it comes to parenting the best lessons are not taught but demonstrated. It is hard to change the world simply by telling someone else how they should do it. Encourage everyone in your household and even your extended family to participate in a local volunteer activity, charitable event, or just in random acts of kindness throughout the month. It will create a habit and routine that inspires generosity and empathy in your children.

Living in a small town we are surrounded by opportunities to show our young people that they are part of a larger community and that members of a community are responsible for each other. Share current events and other community concerns with your children.

For younger children, a great place to start is to show them local landmarks, introduce them to local history and participate in local events. A keen sense of community also has the benefit of protecting your children.

I encourage my children to know their neighbours, community landmarks and introduce themselves to area business owners. That way if they are ever lost or in trouble they can feel comfortable seeking out these familiar community members for help. By doing so they learn that a community helps its members when they are in need.

Gear the activity to the age and interest of your child. If you have children under six years old start having discussions about respecting the feelings of those around them. While younger children may not understand the concepts we can set a good example as parents by creating a household where giving is natural.

Teach young children to share, help around the house and comfort people when they are ill or upset and you will set the groundwork for compassion and empathy. Be sure to encourage the behavior by praising kind and generous acts.

They should see giving as an enjoyable activity. Let them help you drop food off to the food bank or drop the coins in the Good Samaritans kettle at Christmas. You could have them select a few toys or books of their own to donate to a charitable sale. Make a charitable walk event into a family one where everyone can participate together. Teach your children that there are many ways to give that go beyond simply donating money.

If you have an older child or teen add current world events to family chats. Let them know about local issues and get their input. Ask their ideas about how they can help or what “we” as a community can do. Making older children part of the conversation makes them feel valued and motivated to get involved.

You can encourage them by appealing to their interests. If they like animals show them how to get involved with a local animal shelter or veterinary clinic. If they are good artists perhaps they could donate their time and work to a fundraising art show or lend their musical talents to a charity concert.

A nature lover could cut and arrange fresh flowers for patients at a local hospital or a mother’s helper could offer tutoring or help with a program at the local library.

In Ontario, Secondary School Students are required to complete 40 hours of volunteer service in order to graduate. Students can start accumulating volunteer hours the summer before Grade 9.

Extra volunteer hours make excellent experience on a resume, college or scholarship application. Teaching a child to be charitable is a win-win for the community, family and the child. You are teaching them that they can make a difference in the lives of others and giving them the courage to change the world.

One thought on “Teach kids how to be part of their community

  1. Dan Denief

    Another way to teach teens to be awesome community ambassadors is to look at membership in the Canadian Cadet Program. I may be a little biased, as I am currently involved in running our local program, but I find that youth benefit greatly from our program as “Promote Citizenship” is one of our three primary goals. We are deeply involved with many local organizations, and most cadets usually end up winning extra bursaries and such based on the sheer number of volunteer hours they provide. (and they have fun doing them).

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