As July melts into August and the novelty of summer begins to fade away, parents find themselves plagued by one, single phrase: “I’m bored!”

No matter how many toys, playdates or pool visits are planned, boredom seems to creep into every family’s summer one way or another. At Chicago Cares, we believe that volunteering is one of the best ways to beat the summer blahs, and it has the added benefit of building a better community and a stronger family. So, why should your children volunteer?

Volunteering promotes positive choices
The recipients of service are not the only ones to see the benefits of volunteering. Studies show that children who serve others are less likely to become involved in at-risk behaviors. Along with providing positive, structured activities, volunteering nourishes caring values in children as they relate to and empathize with others. Volunteer service can also serve as a platform to highlight and discuss pressing issues youth face, such as teen pregnancy, academic struggles, substance abuse, and violence.

Volunteering Heightens Development
A 2002 study found that children who volunteer develop positive self-confidence and show an increase in moral reasoning. Service to others can also increase social development as children practice social skills and gain a stronger sense of social responsibility. Through volunteering, you and your child can increase your intellectual capabilities as you are presented with new tasks, and opportunities to apply those skills you’ve recently learned.

Volunteering Teaches Life Skills
Many volunteer opportunities may teach children skills such as how to use a hammer, cook a meal or tend a garden. Even greater than these technical skills, however, are the life lessons that come with becoming a volunteer. Responsibility, reliability, punctuality and team work are just some of the foundational skills that your child will learn through service to others.

Volunteering Improves the Community
As children volunteer, they become valuable contributors to their community, and experience an increase in civic pride. A report from the William T. Grant Commission on Work,  Family, and Citizenship states,

“There is virtually no limit to what  young people can do, no social need they cannot help meet, and giving young people the opportunities to serve enable them to become  contributors, problem-solvers, and partners with adults in improving their communities and larger society.”

Volunteering Builds a Lifelong Ethic of Service
Signing up for a few volunteer projects may conquer boredom for a while, but even more importantly, volunteering has a long-term payoff. Research shows that the earlier children are involved in volunteering, the higher the probability of  them volunteering during adolescence and possibly later in life. By growing the core value of service in your children, you are preparing them to become adults who are passionate about their communities and focused on using their skills and talents to help those in need.

Volunteering is FUN
Besides all of the positive benefits listed above, probably the most important part of volunteering is the chance to go out and have a great time with your family! Whether you are playing BINGO with a group of seniors, tending a community garden, or helping sort clothes for a homeless shelter; serving alongside your family will be an experience that you all can enjoy, which is definitely something to feel good about!

Chicago Cares currently has projects available for children as young as 8 years old (all children under 16 must have a parent or guardian attend with them.) If you would like to find out more about family volunteer opportunities, visit our website, and we’ll help you find the right project for your family.

To view the full report and study citations mentioned in this blog post, please visit serviceleader.org.

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