“The family that perseveres in good works will surely have an abundance of blessings.” – Chinese Proverb

By Jason Boulay, Communications Coordinator, United Way of Rhode Island

Modern life is full of distractions — often, it seems we are more connected with the world around us than the people who matter most. While useful, the introduction of smart phones, tablets, and social media has made it far more difficult for families to spend quality time together without the ever-present distraction of technology. In fact, research has found that the average family only spends 34 minutes of undistracted time together each day.

Family time is not only about enjoying each other’s company, but it’s also beneficial to childhood development. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently discovered that children who regularly spend quality time with their parents are better communicators and often exhibit advanced social skills.

Out of the many ways to increase family time, few are as rewarding as volunteering together.
“Volunteering helps make families stronger and shows children the importance of helping others,” said Janice Pothier Pac, Director of Volunteer Engagement at United Way of Rhode Island. “Whether the whole family is involved, or it’s just a parent and child enjoying an afternoon together, volunteering teaches children that there’s a connection between themselves and their community — a community they have the power to improve.”

There are so many benefits associated with family volunteering — here are the top five:

1. Opens up communication
As too many parents know, when children become teenagers it can be difficult to maintain an open dialogue with them. Luckily, the quality time spent together while volunteering promotes openness, understanding, and is often the catalyst to meaningful conversations.

Even choosing where to volunteer can be beneficial; it creates an opportunity for parents and children to share their feelings, discuss community issues, and express their opinions. Regardless of the final choice, everyone will feel good about giving back and the lines of communication will be a little clearer.

2. Creates teachable moments
As parents, we are constantly looking for moments to teach our children useful life lessons; don’t touch the stove – or you’ll get burned, share your toys – and you’ll make friends, brush your teeth – or you’ll lose those friends you just made. But, choosing the perfect moment to teach each lesson can be just as important as the lesson itself.
Family volunteering is full of teachable moments. Among them, the opportunity to discuss service, giving back, and why helping others is so important. Being of service to others is the foundation on which character is built, and there’s no better way for a child to learn this lesson than by serving those in need.

3. Teaches teamwork
Even before joining the baseball team, the football team, or the cheerleading squad your child has already begun to learn about teamwork. Where? Their family. Parents put a lot of effort into selecting the right teams for their children, but often overlook the value of service-based family activities — such as volunteering.

Family volunteering allows children to work closely with their siblings, grandparents, parents, and other family members while strengthening skills necessary to be a productive member of a team, including active listening, respect, sharing, and problem solving. Learning how to work well with others puts children at an advantage in school, work, and in every other aspect of their lives.

4. Instills the value of generosity
While it’s still important to give to your favorite non-profit, donating your family’s time to make an impact sends an even more powerful message — one that your children will never forget.

Using family volunteering to model generosity is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, people who are generous with their time live happier, healthier lives. Whether it’s cleaning the park, helping at the food pantry, or creating literacy kits with United Way of Rhode Island, parents have the ability to improve their child’s life by instilling in them the value of generosity.

5. It’s free!
Family activities can be expensive, with very few not affecting the household budget. Bringing a family of four to a movie costs around $60, never mind the popcorn, candy, and soda. But, there is good news: not only does family volunteering open up communications, make memories, teach teamwork, and instill values — but, it’s also free. The bad news: your family will still want to go see the next animated blockbuster, or high-octane action movie — complete with an expensive trip to the concession stand.

Here’s a chance to volunteer!

UWRI has an upcoming volunteer day that would be perfect for your family – join us on Saturday, November 18, 2017, to make literacy kits for local children. Literacy kits encourage home reading by deepening a child’s experience and making the book more engaging.

Using their creativity, and the arts and crafts supplies provided by UWRI, families create puppets, games, and props based on the book they donate. Last year, some family volunteers even included personal messages of encouragement in their kits — which are then donated to children through local nonprofit agencies.

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