Everyday it seems my two young children, ages five and three, plead their case for more stuff. My five-year-old daughter wants an iPhone because someone in her kindergarten class said they had one. My three-year-old son is begging, tears and all, for a tennis racket. And what do I want? I just want peace of mind. More importantly, I want grounded, empathetic kids who understand that not all children get what they want.
With the holidays quickly approaching I knew I needed to address this, but I wasn’t sure how. When a mother’s group I belong to decided to have our children volunteer at Bright Blessings, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to enlighten my daughter.
Bright Blessings is a non-profit organization that serves more than 4,000 homeless and impoverished children in Charlotte by providing toys, books, and other care items through its core programs: Bless-A-Birthday, Bless-A-Baby, Gift of Literacy and Gift of Care.
Bright Blessings played a short video for the children and then my daughter helped make bookmarks and pipe cleaner candy canes. It was a great age-appropriate activity that helped her understand just how fortunate she really is. Initially, I wasn’t sure how much of an impact this experience had on my daughter until later that night after bath and book time she began to ask lots of questions: Why don’t these kids have homes? Can they come stay with us? Can I give them some of my toys? After asking no less than 12 questions, my daughter wanted to hold hands and pray for the homeless children. In that moment, I realized the value of volunteering for young children.
It is vital that children understand that not all kids have the same economic background. Some have more, some have less, but through volunteering kids can learn to share and to be grateful for what they have. This volunteer experience also affected me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. In the past, I thought my daughter may have been too young to understand, but now I know I can be more open and honest with her about other children’s struggles. I will encourage my kids to help others through volunteering their time and their talents well into adolescence.
According to the most recent data from the US Department of Labor, in 2014 the volunteer rate for teenagers 16 to 19-years-old was 26.1%. The Department of Labor also indicated that adults with children under age 18 volunteered at a higher rate than adults with children over 18-years-old.
If you are looking for ways to volunteer with your children this holiday season and beyond, check out this great list of organizations that allow children of all ages to volunteer, even preschoolers:
For more information about Bright Blessings and how you can get involved, visit http://www.brightblessingsusa.org/
Lylah Holmes-Daniel is a former television news producer who now resides in Charlotte, NC with her husband and two energetic children. Prior to relocating to the Queen City she spent more than a decade covering national and international news for ABC News, CNN International, Associated Press and MSNBC. Lylah is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Howard University. She enjoys exploring Charlotte with her family, dining out and traveling around the world.