One of the most important values parents can instill in their children is a willingness to serve others. By serving others, kids learn how to identify their gifts and strengths and how to use them to make a positive difference in the world.
Children who serve less fortunate populations are afforded a unique perspective that encourages gratitude and empathy. These experiences create lasting impressions on children and foster compassion, kindness, and understanding. It gives them an opportunity to make their faith actionable and to gain the confidence to share their beliefs with others while also giving them a tangible example of Christ's love.
Parents and caregivers play a vital role in nurturing and shaping service-minded youth. If you're looking to facilitate a willingness to serve in your child, here are 3 ways you can help.
1. Serve with your child. Social scientists have found that modeling parent behavior is one of "the most fundamental dimensions of raising a moral, prosocial child." Rutgers University professor of sociology Dr. David Popenoe asserts that parents must "purposely teach values" and "continually set a good example" to have the greatest moral impact. When you spend time serving with your child, you are not only teaching them through your example, but you are also solidifying your parental bond, one of the most basic and essential components to your child's moral development. Spending time together as a family helping others teaches children that time is one of the most valuable gifts you can give.
2. Allow your child to play a responsible role in service projects. Children who are given responsibility in service projects are more likely to be engaged and enthusiastic towards future opportunities to serve. Encourage your child to brainstorm and list ways that they might help others. Even children as young as preschool can take an active part in service projects. There are endless possibilities of how children of all ages can volunteer. Some ideas include: making cards for senior citizens, writing letters to thank veterans, donating used books, toys, or clothes to your local shelter, picking up litter at the park, or hosting a lemonade sale to benefit a charity of choice. Let your child help choose the project, plan, and do the necessary work.
3. Encourage your child to participate in group service projects. Stay aware of service projects that are being planned by your family's church, child's school, or extracurricular groups. Whenever possible, encourage your child to contribute to these projects. Many times these groups will support initiatives such as food drives, mission trips, donations of school supplies or clothing, disaster clean up, or construction projects such as building homes for needy families. Supporting group service projects strengthens your child's relationships with these organizations and reinforces the partnership among the influences in your child's life. It also teaches your child the value of teamwork, provides opportunities for social development and allows your child to be a part of advocacy efforts and activism. Your child can experience the internal rewards of being part of a greater cause and building relationships with others who value serving others too.
Ultimately parents play the largest role in shaping their child's character. Parents who contribute and reaffirm the importance of serving others will give their children a strong foundation for character and moral development while teaching them how to be an example of light to others.
GAC emphasizes the importance of serving others through numerous, age-appropriate opportunities throughout the school year. Our older students participate in mission trips locally, nationally, and abroad using their talents and time to make a difference in the lives of others. We encourage you to learn more about our service and missions programs by visiting our campus. Schedule your visit today!