Pay it forward
I recently celebrated a milestone birthday which is often a time for reflection. Let me start by saying I lead a very fortunate and fulfilling life. My basic needs are met, I’m in good health, have a strong network of friends and colleagues and manage to successfully juggle a career and raise a family unscathed. But yet I found myself yearning for a greater purpose, one bigger than myself and my family.One of my close friends regularly volunteers and raves about its benefits – the obvious being that you provide a service to those in need. But you also get to meet like-minded people, learn new skills, reduce stress and feel a greater sense of happiness and reward. Giving back seemed like the perfect answer in gaining the greater sense of purpose I had been seeking. As I started to explore volunteering opportunities in my community, I realized this would be a great activity for me and my family to share.
Volunteering with your toddler or young child is a great way to set a positive example, teach empathy and compassion for others. And according to Volunteers for America, two thirds of youth who volunteer become active adults who volunteer. It seemed too good to be true – a free activity that sparks joy for you and your family and others in need – sign me up! If you share my enthusiasm to pay it forward and raise compassionate do-gooders then look no further.
Once you’ve decided which volunteer activity you’ll be participating in, make sure you have a detailed understanding of what it entails. Then explain to your toddler exactly what you’ll be doing so there aren’t any surprises. For instance, an animal shelter may not permit your child to handle a dog during a walk, so it’s important to know this ahead of time and avoid a meltdown! Answer any questions your child may have and be enthusiastic so they mirror you excitement. And lastly, explain why the job is meaningful and important to your community so they understand it serves a greater purpose. I guarantee you’ll enjoy this time bonding with your family in a new and different way. Consider showing your appreciation by rewarding your toddler with a small treat such as ice cream at the end of the activity. Most importantly, have fun!