Stregthening families through volunteering

Research shows that volunteering can help build family connections and teach young people skills like improved communication and problem solving.

We live in a very hectic culture. Parents are overwhelmed with messages about what they should do in order to raise healthy, productive children. Children are involved with many activities and their caregivers juggle countless responsibilities including fluctuating job schedules, economic challenges and caring for loved ones. Families often have to juggle their “must-dos” with those tasks that might seem more frivolous in nature. What if there were a way for parents to build those necessary life skills their children need while also teaching them civic and social responsibility? Research shows that volunteering can not only help build family connections, but also teach young people skills like improved communication and problem solving.

According to the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis, families that volunteer together experience a variety of positive outcomes. Not only did families report having fun together during their volunteer experience, but they also shared that they had a broadened world view as a result of their volunteer work. The children of families who volunteered together reported that volunteering helped them gain a richer perspective on career opportunities and decide what kind of job they wanted when they grew up. Youth also reported stronger relationships with their family members and that the experience helped them better communicate their values to one another. Jaclyn Tersigni of the Toronto Star recently profiled a family who volunteers together. The family reported similar outcomes with the added perk of getting to experience free events at which their family volunteered. Together as a family, they were able to try new things and build a sense of accomplishment on their familial effort.

If your family is interested in spending time together volunteering, there are countless ways to get involved. PBS Kids offers a great resource for getting started. Brainstorming what kind of project the family is interested in doing is the first step. Consider what commitments you already have in order to determine what kind of volunteer opportunity is best for you. Finally, look for organizations that offer the kinds of activities that fit your family’s interests and needs. Both Idealist.org and VolunteerMatch.org allow you to narrow opportunities to those that allow families to volunteer and sort by geographic location. Your local Michigan State University Extension office can also help your family find an opportunity that’s right for them.

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