Teens and pre-teens may not always have philanthropy on their active minds, but volunteering their time can have a healthy impact on their development and help establish a sense of community. Encouraging them to commit random acts of kindness is also a wonderful way for them to learn about empathy for others, says Dr. Mery Taylor, a CHOC Children’s psychologist.
“Volunteering helps to broaden teens’ understanding of the world so they can understand there are different types of people with different types of needs. Not everyone may have the same opportunities and abilities they may have,” says Dr. Taylor. “Anybody can use their talents to help others. Altruism can actually grow the areas of your brain involved in emotions, and make you feel good you’ll want to do it again.”
It can, however, be a challenge for young teens and pre-teens to find volunteer opportunities because of age restrictions. OneOC is an Orange County-based non-profit that helps community members of all ages find service opportunities that match their personal interests. The organization’s comprehensive volunteer calendar offers a list of opportunities throughout Orange County. OneOC also sponsors five annual days of service that bring individuals, families, businesses and schools together to volunteer throughout the year: MLK JR. Day of Service (January), Earth Day (April), 9/11 Day of Service & Remembrance (September), Family Volunteer Day (November), and Spirit of Giving (December and April).
Additional ways for children and teens to give back include:
- Clean out bookcases, toy chests and closets, and donate items to organizations that can accept them. Keep in mind that some organizations can only accept new items. CHOC can accept gently used books for our Family Resource Center. Due to infection control guidelines, all other items must be newly purchased.
- From selling lemonade to organizing a bake sale, kids can start their own fundraisers to benefit their favorite nonprofits. At CHOC, we’ve witnessed some incredible acts of kindness from children, including current and former patients and their siblings. For inspiration, read about Juneau and Jamie’s Girl Scout troop.
- Find ways to earn, save and donate allowances. Children who wish to give back to CHOC can consider purchasing items for our patients from our wish list.
Volunteer opportunities at CHOC exist for teens ages 16 and older.
There are numerous ways to instill the giving spirit in children and teens, says Dr. Taylor. Commit to participating in community service as a family, and start a family conversation around why you are giving back. Remind them that there are many different reasons why someone could end up in a position of needing help. Parents are a model for their children, and even if your children are too young to actively volunteer, they will be able to see the impact of your regular volunteer work.