It is never too early or too late for kids to start doing volunteer work. Even an infant can cheer up a shut-in or nursing-home resident. Middle schoolers can tutor kids their own age in reading and math, and teenagers can get valuable exposure to careers they’re interested in, while giving back to their communities at the same time.

Volunteering as a family – serving meals at a local soup kitchen, for example – is a great way to show your kids that your commitment to your values is more than just talk. Besides that, it can give children of all ages an opportunity to discover hidden talents, develop skills, learn about cooperation and problem-solving, and gain some appreciation of how lucky they are. Volunteering as a family does as much good for the family as it does for the community.

Here are some things to consider as you search for the right volunteer opportunity:

• Look into causes or issues that are important to you. What better way to pass your values on to your children than by getting involved in an organization that works with issues that you care strongly about. If you need some suggestions, call your local United Way. Chances are they’ll have a volunteer center that can hook you up with organizations that need help.

• Look into causes that are important to your children. Kids have big hearts, too. Letting them pick whom they want to help will make them that much more committed.

• Consider your children’s career interests. As I mentioned earlier, volunteering is a great way to expose your children to careers they seem interested in. Later, if they choose to pursue this career, the volunteer experience will help enhance their first resumes.

• Think about trying something new. Learning a new skill can be an exciting family project, and many organizations are looking for people who are willing to learn. Realize, however that you may need to devote a lot of time to get trained before the actual volunteer assignment begins.

• Don’t over commit. It’s better to start off slowly and add time later than to agree to take on more than you can possibly do.

• Try using your computer as a volunteer tool. Servenet (www.servenet.org) is a great place to find listings of volunteer positions.

Armin Brott is a syndicated columnist and author.


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