Parents, want to help your kids to volunteer?
It’s not uncommon for parents to want their tweens or teenage children to volunteer. As a Volunteer Coordinator, every spring at the end of the school year, and throughout the summer, I’d get calls form parents who would be interested in having their child volunteer. There were a variety of reasons:
To give them something to do over the summer
To get them away from video games or not being productive with their time
To help them for future paid summer jobs
To help them in career exploration
To give them a leg up on post-secondary program requirements
To provide them with scholarship opportunities
To allow them the opportunity to help the community
Parents will make the call or the initial contact with the non-profit for various reasons:
Their child may be shy or lacking in confidence to do so themselves
Their child is in school and can’t connect with the non-profit after hours
Parents might want to learn more about the position or the process before their child makes contact
There is nothing wrong with parent’s assisting their child in getting started in volunteering but it’s important to note that at some point the child who will be volunteering must contact the agency themselves. They can fill out the application themselves (it’s okay to help if they have questions), they must attend the interview (by themselves) and of course, attend the training and all their shifts. Think of this as their first part-time paid job. They’d have to do all these steps on their own, it’s the same with volunteering.
If you feel your child isn’t ready or able to do this on their own, then you may want to consider looking into family volunteering opportunities where the two of you can volunteer. If your child has any disabilities, you can have them talk to the volunteer coordinator about the process, or if they’re alright with you discussing it, then you can talk to the volunteer coordinator about it. Perhaps accommodations will be made where your child can get extra support.
The best way for you to support your child is to first talk to them about volunteering.
Do they understand what volunteering is?
How would they like to help?
Who would they like to work with?
How much time can they commit?
Are they mature enough to handle certain roles (for example, if they’re working with seniors or people with health concerns, would they be able to deal with sickness or possibly even death?)
What are they hoping to get from the time they spend volunteering?
There are many questions they can ponder to help them to figure out what they might like to do and where.
Once they start volunteering, ask them how it’s going.
Help them to reflect on their experience. Could it be better? If so, do they have the confidence to talk to their supervisor and if not, can you support them?
What do they like best about their volunteer role?
Like any life experience, volunteering is an opportunity for personal growth and a great way to connect with their community. A good volunteer role can set them up for a lifelong journey of community involvement.