Summer is here. Do you really want your kids to spend their summer just watching television and playing video games? Why not let them be a superhero (cape optional) and help someone in the process? Support them in volunteering this summer, instead of growing roots on the couch. Use volunteering to teach your kids that life is about more than just filling your time--it is about filling your heart. The following suggestions will help your kids find an appropriate volunteering opportunity.
Search the internet for options or call your local chapter of the United Way to see what organized opportunities are offered in your area. Look for supervised volunteer opportunities that will make you feel secure. If you can’t find a supervised activity, and your kids are home alone anyway, develop a list of businesses where you already know the owners. This way, when you or your children call to see if the owners need help, they already know your child will be an asset.
If your kids love animals, call your local animal shelter or your veterinarian’s office to see if they need help exercising or bathing animals. Or your kids can get a group of their friends together to offer pet sitting services in your neighborhood. This can help make a difference in an animal’s life, while also helping kids feel good about themselves in the process.
If your kids love elderly people, help them call local retirement homes to see if they need assistance in entertaining the residents. Your kids and their friends can organize a sing-along or a play. The kids can lead practices at your house, and you or one of the other parents can chaperone to the actual performance.
Visit community centers or churches to see if they need decorations for an event. Your kids and their friends can arrange flowers, paint banners or make centerpieces. If kids are tech savvy, they can design a flyer or help create an ad for the business’s website or Facebook page.
Volunteering starts at home. Your kids could organize a neighborhood yard sale to help everyone clean out their garage. If your kids are budding chefs, they can help plan a neighborhood barbecue or potluck to show off the dishes they have learned to make. Maybe this could take some meals off your plate.
Like all things in parenting, there is not one perfect answer to the summer activity question. Instead of searching for the perfect answer, put your energy into finding the best answer for you--and your child--right now. If you bring your children into the decision-making process, you will empower them to start making choices in their life. Taking responsibility for their actions and choices is the first step to being a responsible citizen.
Choosing summer activities is a big decision, and there are many options. If you google “summer opportunities for kids,” you will see more than 1 million hits. While there are a lot of options out there, this decision does not need to be overwhelming. Take deep breaths and ask yourself what feels like the right choice. Which choice feels good in your gut? If the choice feels calm and loving, go with that one.
Each family is different. Do not try and make your kids into something they are not. Ask them where their passions lie instead of just doing what your neighbor, mom or Aunt Sadie says is the right thing to do. If your kids are passionate about the environment, check out your local paper’s community pages to see if anyone is organizing a roadside clean-up or a beach pick-up. Or you can help your child create a program to encourage your neighborhood grocery to switch to reusable grocery bags instead of plastic bags.
You don’t need to volunteer with a big organization or be part of a huge project. If your kids are old enough to stay home alone, you can just have your kids help out a friend’s family and your own.
Do you have a project you have been putting off, such as cleaning up leaves, painting fences or planting flowers? Your kids can get together with their friends and families to get it done. Tell your children that this is how people in the old days used to build houses. Everyone would show up and build an entire house together. After all, when we all pull together, it is amazing what we can accomplish.
If none of these ideas appeal to you, get together with your kids to put on your creative hats and come up with your own ideas. Better yet, get your kids and their friends together to brainstorm as a group. We are always better when we surround ourselves with our support system--or our Pride. When lionesses work together, a Pride can do things that one lioness could never do alone.
When you choose to aid your children in volunteering this summer, you will be increasing the size of your Pride, and you will give your kids something meaningful to say when someone asks them how they spent their summer. Do a little research and come up with some different options for discussion. Then talk with your kids and develop a plan. Anyone can watch their summer pass by. Only superheroes will go a step further to use their time and energy to make the world a better place.
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Photo Credits: Volunteer David Cundiff shows children how to make a newspaper planter for seeds by USFS Region 5 via Flickr; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com