Tips for getting your family started this summer
By Jenny Pope
It’s the middle of summer and your kids are getting bored. Instead of sending them off to another summer day camp, why not think of something you can do together to make a difference in your community?
Experts agree that all children benefit from volunteer work. Their self esteem increases as they build confidence in their ability to assist others and make a difference in the world.
Dana Divine, licensed childcare administrator and counselor at Buckner Children’s Home in Lubbock, says volunteering helps “counteract a child’s natural tendency to be self centered.”
“Many kids tend to focus on themselves and the problems in their lives,” she said. “Volunteering allows them to focus outside themselves and see the struggles of others. It also empowers them to do something about it.”
Volunteer coordinators at Buckner have a lot of ideas on ways to get your kids involved in philanthropy and service this summer. Here are some of their tips to getting your kids excited about helping others.
1. Discuss your child’s interests. It’s important for your child to enjoy the activity or project they’re working on or they might never learn to love the act of service. Sit down as a family and write out all the things that you’re interested in and enjoy doing. Then think about a problem. Is there something in your community that’s always bothered you? Is there something you could do to make it better?
Now, see if you could apply any of your interests to solving that problem. If you can come up with that solution, then you’ve found your match.
“Finding volunteer opportunities for your children without knowing their interests, strengths, and weaknesses is like anything else that we sign them up for,” said Beaumont volunteer coordinator Deanna Baird. “If you put a ballet dancer on a softball field, you will find them physically present but more than likely practicing their curtsy as the ball rolls past them. Know and accept your children’s strengths and don't try to make your talents or dreams theirs.”
Baird suggests observing your child to find out how they tend to show others they care. Do they like to help with chores around the house? Are they often giving you affirmation? These are good indicators to the types of service they would be interested in doing.
2. Make a plan. Once you’ve decided on what you want to do, work together with your child to make a plan. If you want to help collect humanitarian aid for children and orphans, decide how you want to do it. Do you want to start a collection in your church? Do you want to put up signs in your community? Where will you collect the items? What specific items do you want to collect? All of these are great questions to get your conversation started.
It’s important to also set in a beginning and an end, said Eushunda Kennedy, volunteer coordinator for Shoes for Orphan Souls at the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid. “It’s good to have a tangible outcome so that your children can see how their work benefits others,” she said.
Baird also suggests taking a tour or visiting some local community outreach programs to see what opportunities are available. “We never tell our volunteers what to do,” she said. “God will plant an idea in their mind during the tour and they’ll decide where to serve and fulfill a need. And from that we are blessed.”
3. Do it together. Working together as a family can be a team-building experience. “Families bond as they see the amount the work they can accomplish together. And the kids definitely leave with a feeling of being a part of something much larger than themselves,” Kennedy said.
But service shouldn’t be considered a one-time lesson or opportunity. The best way to help your child learn to serve others is to lead by example. Parents should seek to model service in their everyday lives.
“Service starts with caring for other people,” she said. “It’s as simple as that. Even just opening doors for someone with their hands full or helping a neighbor is exhibiting acts of service. Your children will learn from your example.”
4. Discuss the experience with your child. After you’ve completed your service together, talk with your child about their experience. Ask them questions about what they learned and how they felt.
“Discuss the experience after you’ve completed the service. Don’t make it a teaching experience while you’re there,” Bunyard said.
“It’s also important to talk with your child about the similarities they have with other people and not the differences,” she added. “It will help teach them to treat others with respect and dignity… and to realize we’re all the same.”
Want to get your family involved with Buckner? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
• Volunteer at the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid. Adults and children of all ages can help sort humanitarian aid with Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls, a ministry that ships shoes to children and orphans around the world. Located in Dallas. Contact Eushunda Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or visit www.ShoesforOrphanSouls.org.
• Collect shoes for orphans and at-risk kids. You can host your own shoe drive in your community or collect shoes online. You could also join the Shoes for Orphan Souls Birthday Club and ask children to bring new shoes to your child’s birthday party for orphans around the world. Visit www.ShoesforOrphanSouls.org to learn more.
• Collect personal hygiene items for children in residential care. Children often come to Buckner without any of their personal items. You can help a child feel more at home by collecting some of life’s essentials, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, body wash, hair dryers, hair clips, nail clippers and more.
• Purchase extra school supplies. Back-to-school season is just around the corner and children at Buckner will need lots of school supplies. If you’re shopping for your own children, buy a little extra. Items needed include notebooks, pencils, pens, backpacks, rulers, crayons, glue, calculators, scissors and more.
• Visit senior adults at a Buckner retirement community. If there’s a Buckner retirement community in your area, consider taking a trip to visit and play games with elders.
• Host a party for children in after-school programs. Or put together a birthday box for a child. A birthday box could include everything from cake mix, decorations and party favors to special gifts chosen for children of certain ages.
To learn more about how you can be involved with Buckner in your community, click here to find someone locally. Or visit us online at www.buckner.org.