By: Linda Lou

If you ever have trouble getting your kids to help out at home, you might be surprised by what you read next. Of 180,000 Australians students surveyed by Resilient Youth, 90% actually want to contribute to society.

Psychologist and parenting expert Collett Smart shared her passion on these positive results.

“I feel like we hear so much bad news in the media about kids and teens. So many young people I work with are doing so well, and they are outward-looking and wonderful. We’re seeing more of these kinds of statistics — that kids want to look outside of themselves,” said Collett.

“Research tells us that when we volunteer, it sends the message that everyone is valuable. It’s good for our mental health and it’s good for our bodies”

The Positive Benefits of Volunteering

The statistics of the Resilient Youth survey show that secondary students are less likely than primary school students to want to volunteer, but the difference in percentage is small — 87 per cent of year 10 to 12 students want to volunteer.

“Once kids are seen volunteering, or we give them opportunities to volunteer, we will see the knock-on effect for their peers [to see that] this is something cool to do.”

Positive peer pressure is not the only benefit of volunteering: “Research tells us that when we volunteer, it sends the message that everyone is valuable. It’s good for our mental health and it’s good for our bodies”, Collett said.

The mental health benefits of volunteering include:
• Diminishes loneliness
• Reduces stress
• Lessens social isolation
• Develops stronger social skills

The physical benefits of volunteering are also surprising. Volunteering has been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain and heart disease.

How to Help Your Kids Care More

Volunteering can also be a great way to educate children to think about ethical issues and so, develop empathy and compassion.

Knowing that volunteering has so many benefits, what can parents do to help their children initiate a culture of helping others?

Collett suggests that it starts with the parents demonstrating what volunteering looks like. In other words, set the example.

“It needs to be obvious,” she said. “We need to make caring for others a priority in our homes – encouraging [our kids] to see other peoples’ perspective, and show compassion.”

“[Children need to] hear from their parents why caring for others is important, and then we need to give them opportunities to do it. For kids to follow through and practice caring and empathy for the community, they need to see you modelling to them what volunteering looks like. And it requires practice.”

Teenage boy is delivering some groceries to an elderly woman. He is handing her a shopping bag at her front door.

Ideas for the Kids: Start Small

Starting small is the key to getting started.

“There are local things we can do if we just open our eyes, and look for opportunities to help and encourage our children to help,” Collett said. “We must not get bogged down to thinking ‘oh it’s too hard’, there are little things we can get our children to do.”

Suggestions include:

  • Find your local food pantry to donate to. Get your kids to choose the food items.
  • Put toys and books together for your local children’s hospital.
  • Utilise public holidays. For example, take some Easter eggs to your local fire or police station and thank them for being on duty on Easter Sunday.
  • Clean up your local park, without being thanked. (Supervise your children while you’re doing it.)
  • Find an elderly neighbour and wheel out their bin each week.
  • Ask your local church community what opportunities there are to help out.

Article supplied with thanks to Hope 103.2.

About the Author: Linda Lou is a digital assistant for Hope Media.

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