Tips For Parents Of Youth Athletes
As parents, it’s only natural to want your children to succeed in endeavors like school and sports. Adults who put their kids into athletics, however, need to remember that sports stop being fun for kids when too much pressure falls on their shoulders to succeed instead of enjoying the game. While all parents have a high emotional stake in their children’s games, parents of players need to ensure that every action they take centers around just one outcome: making sure their kid is safe and happy on the field, ice or track.
Lead by Example
Inevitably, parents pass their characteristics to their kids, meaning that active parents will be more likely to raise active children. Indeed, there’s a genetic component to health, with overweight parents more likely to raise overweight children. Children imitate behavior they see every day. Those who watch their parents lounge while watching television will be less likely to enjoy sports and exercise, while those who watch their parents participate in active hobbies will want to pursue the same hobbies. Exhibit the type of lifestyle you want your child to exemplify, both in sports and in other activities, by committing to healthy lifestyles with enthusiasm, so that they will always want to lace up for the next game.
Let Kids Decide
While some parents may dream that their child will succeed at the same sports they played, not all kids enjoy the same sports as their parents. Some kids may prefer a more active sport, or a more cerebral sport, or a sport with more physicality. Give kids lots of time and room to find out which types of sports are their favorite — whether it’s football, tennis or Ping-Pong — and allow them to quit whenever it’s clear they aren’t having fun.
Kids, in general, aren’t great at making decisions. This doesn’t mean you should make the decision for them, but help them clearly understand the positives and negatives of playing a sport, then compare it with pros and cons of changing to another activity. Your child’s participation should make him/her a happier, healthier individual; whenever he/she is neither happy nor healthy it’s time to change the plan.
Never be the Second Coach
While every parent should show up to as many of their kids’ games as possible to support the team, parents need to understand the importance of distancing themselves from the coach or referees. Parents at a game are not the coaches: they do not have any input on which kids go onto the field and which come off, nor do they have the ability to determine penalties or misconduct. A bit of good-natured grumbling about a foul is one thing, but parents who are disruptive during a game or who demand that coaches adhere to their specific wishes lead to a tremendous source of stress for their kids and the entire team.
It’s typical for coaches to quit their position of authority due to overbearing parents attempting to “help” a team. One coach calls it the ESPN effect, where parents watch sports on television and feel like they have the experience and competency needed to determine which players should be on the field. When their kid plays a game, the best role the parent can assume is a fan; and the worst role a parent can take is a second coach.
Participate, When Possible
Parents who are used to their kid being away all day at school may find themselves using youth sports as a means of getting their son/daughter out of the house for another few hours each day. While youth sports offers parents the chance to run an occasional errand knowing that their child is busy, parents should never rely on youth sports for the express purpose of a babysitter. It’s crucial to get involved with the team, whether it is raising funds for uniforms, carpooling kids to and from practices, bringing snacks on game day, or organizing road games against out-of-town teams. Parents who put in the elbow grease to make the team stronger will find their kids invest more effort and enjoy the process than parents who use it as a way to keep their child occupied.
About the author:
AJ Lee is a Marketing Specialist at Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He picked up his first hockey stick at age 3 and hasn’t put it down yet. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life.
Getting there is half the fun: Survival tips for your next road trip
If you are headed out on a family road trip for your vacation this year, you are not alone. According to the American Express Spending and Saving Tracker in 2014, more than 44% of families traveled to their vacation destination via car. Although those families are saving money on getting there, they are also increasing their travel time.
For some families, the idea of sitting in a car together for eight hours does not sound like a vacation. Yet for other families, getting there is half the fun. If you are looking for ways to make your next road trip more enjoyable, check out these eight survival tips.
Play a Game – Choose a classic road trip game that you played as a child – 20 Questions, Road Trip Bingo or the License Plate Scavenger Hunt. Pack board games like Trouble or Battleship (where the pieces stay in place) or card games like Apples to Apples that can be played without a table. Bring a small dry erase board and play Pictionary. Place a pair of dice in a clear sealable container to keep them from getting lost while you play dice games like Dice War and Odds and Evens.
Get Creative – As you pass each mile and the rush of everyday life falls away, give your kids an outlet for their creativity. Purchase sticker scenes from Oriental Trading ($5.25 for a set of 12) to create their own beach, farm or dinosaur scene. Foam sticker mosaics is the less messy version of paint-by-numbers and can be found at your local Walmart. The kids can even decorate the car windows with Crayola’s special washable window markers and stencils.
Listen to Books on CD – Take a break from electronic stimulation and let your child use his imagine while listening to a story. Find something the whole family will enjoy. While your family might like a fiction series like Harry Potter, don’t overlook non-fiction books. Check out true stories about inspirational teens, sports heros or a person who ties into your vacation destination.
Start a conversation – Families are so busy these days that they often don’t have the time to catch up. Not sure how to start the conversation? Get a little help from games like ‘Would You Rather?’ or ‘Never Have I Ever…’ or pick up a box of TABLETOPICS. You will be amazed what you learn about each other and yourself.
Busy Books – When my kids were little, I filled binders will fun printables – coloring pages, maps, word searches, mazes, tic tac toe boards, etc. I also packed a simple sketch book and colored pencils so they could create pages for themselves. If you have a long trip, consider creating a busy bag which includes a few small toys like matchbox cars or simple crafts.
Snacks – Throughout the year, our children make healthy eating choices, but when we are on vacation, we allow a little junk in our diets. Pack a bag of special treats – the things you usually say no to during the year. While you want to limit the sugar since you will be in a small space, consider letting them choose a slushee at the gas station or get fast food for lunch.
Make the Most of Stops – Kids and parents alike need to run out some sillies after being in the car too long. Try stopping at a McDonald’s Play Place or a rest stop with playground equipment. Pack a Frisbee, a small ball, a bottle of bubbles or a pack of sidewalk chalk and take a 30 minute break. A little fresh air and space to run will make it a better trip for everyone.
Allow Movie Time – We always pack a small DVD player on trips and stop at Redbox (found in most Walmart stores along the way). Depending on the length of the trip, the kids can each pick a movie or agree on one to watch together. This gives everyone some wind down time after lunch or helps get through the last leg of the trip.
Pam Molnar is a freelance writer and mother of three teens. Her children are seasoned road trippers and enjoy the car ride almost as much at the destination.
Easy Road Trip Dice Games:
1. Odds and Evens
Multiple Players – Three Dice
Place three dice in a sealable clear container to keep them from getting lost in the car. Each player takes a turn rolling (shaking) the dice. Players get one point for each even number rolled (2, 4 or 6). If the player rolls a triple even number (all 2’s, all 4’s or all 6’s), the player gets double their total score. When a player rolls an odd number triple score (all 1’s, all 3’s or all 5’s), their total points are zero. The first player with 100 points wins.
2. Dice War
Two players – One Die
Each person takes a turn rolling the die. The person with the higher number on their roll subtracts the lower number thrown by the other player and his score for that round is the difference between the two numbers. For example, if one player throws a five and the other throws a three, the person that threw the five will get two points. The winner is the highest score after 100 roles or a set time.
Moms Need Mom Friends
by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
When you were in college, you may have gone through a season of your life where you had as many guy friends as girlfriends. It may have been easier, less drama and better parties. But every woman needs a good girlfriend, especially after she has kids. Not only do you need a girlfriend after kids, but you need a mom friend. Moms give other moms what no one else can: emotional support for those days you’re sure you’re losing it; physical support when you need an extra pair of arms, legs or a spare car seat; and spiritual support when you need to hear, “Keep the faith; this too shall pass.”
Mom friends understand when the house smells like dirty diapers, or will talk over a colicky baby without batting an eye. Mom friends understand you crying in the middle of the afternoon because you can’t button your favorite dress, and they listen while you vent about your partner coming home late or being on a business trip leaving you alone with the kids. Mom friends are the backbone of every mom at some time or another.
Throughout every mother’s life–from the birth of her first child to her 80th birthday–she will have friends who have walked the journey with her. Those friends remember her children when they were babies. They become like a tapestry interwoven within the children’s lives. I recall every one of my mother’s dearest mom friends, and although several of them died before my mother, they were as much a part of my family as my brothers and sisters.
With life’s fast pace, it’s easy to get busy and not take time to develop friendships with other moms like our moms did. However, this is a big mistake, because a daycare or babysitter can never fulfill the role our mom friends can.
Here are some simple ways to foster friendships with other moms. You don’t need a group, but you do need a mom friend.
1. Get yourself out there and take your baby for a stroll or go to
the park. Having toys other children can play with will help
draw kids and moms to you. Begin the conversation.
2. After you meet a mom you’re comfortable with, share
contacts on Facebook or phone.
3. Organize play dates at your home.
4. Turn naptimes into coffee times with other moms.
5. Find kid friendly restaurants to meet or other kid activities and
invite another mom and her children.
6. Join an exercise class at the Y. They are inexpensive and
many have babysitting where you’re sure to meet other
7. Sign up for a baby-and-me class and reach out to other
8. Be willing to help another mom when you see a need.
9. Find a church that has activities or baby classes.
10. Send encouraging emails or notes to other moms. This will
make you feel better, and they will be more receptive to
reaching out and contacting you.
My children are grown, and my mom friends have become their surrogate moms. My best mom friend hosted my daughter’s baby shower and so we began again….
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.
By Pediatric Critical Care of South Florida
As school gets back in session, there are some tips that parents can use to get their kids on the right track to wellness.
Nutrition – Children need a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner in order to thrive in school. Make sure that you are both choosing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and foods high in protein and limited sugar. Drinking plenty water is crucial to keeping the body well hydrated and helps flush out impurities
Bedtime – Sleep is the way that the body rejuvenates itself. Start setting a bedtime hour 1-2 weeks before the start of school. Stick to it during the school week, and keep it to a similar sleep pattern during the weekends
Immunizations – Your child’s school has a list of required immunizations and physical examinations, make the proper arrangements with your child’s pediatrician so that your child can begin school in time. Meet with your child’s school officials, such as the school nurse, teachers and principal to make sure that they are informed of any health issues, allergies, or diet restrictions
Mood Changes – A new school year, new school, or new classmates can be stressful. Look for changes in your child’s behavior, demeanor, or school grades to determine if they are having any issues. Give your child a few strategies to manage difficult situations on their own, but know when you need to intervene
Germs – Germs can be easily spread, make sure that your child is practicing good health habits throughout the year, especially at the start of a new school year. Have them keep their hands away from their nose and mouth. Good hand-washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of colds, the flu, and viruses. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective
Exercise – Regular exercise is essential for both physical and mental well-being. In addition to maintaining a healthy weight, exercise helps children focus, sleep, and feel better. Help your child choose activities or sports that they enjoy and will stick to
Backpack Weight – Overloaded backpacks can cause back pain and other health problems. Pick a sturdy backpack with padded straps, and show your child how to use it properly by distributing its content weight properly and using both straps
About Pediatric Critical Care of South Florida
Pediatric Critical Care of South Florida (PCCSF) is a group of leading pediatric intensivists and hospitalists who are board-certified and fellowship-trained in pediatrics and pediatric critical care medicine. They currently operate the pediatric critical care unit (PICU) facility at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Florida. For more information, please visit www.pccsf.com or call (954) 454-5131.
Summer is upon us, which means time off from school, moree
opportunities to play, and lots of free time in which kids say things like, “I’m bored.” How can you keep your kids focused, entertained and still learning this season? To answer hat question, here’s a look at some specific ideas for active learning games that will help your kids expel energy, stay mentally sharp, and avoid dreaded boredom:
1. Make a Summer Dream List. Get your kids dreaming about fun summer
activities by having them write a summer bucket list, suggests Rebecca
Gruber at PopSugar. The ideas they jot down don’t have to be lofty or
ambitious, “but it will be fun to check items off the list and turn to it for ideas
when it feels like you’re in the midst of an endless summer.”
2. Be Artistic. Most kids love coloring because it gives them a creative outlet in
which they can choose colors, draw, decorate and design different pages as
they like. Use this interest to your advantage this season by filling summer
afternoons with artistic time to color, paint, draw and so on. Better yet, plan
special crafts that you can take during an afternoon to work on together,
making mementos from the seashells you bring back from the beach or
special artwork to hang in your kids’ rooms. You might even grab some
sidewalk chalk to let your kids draw on the front driveway or sidewalk.
3. Cook Together. Pick a super simple recipe and break it down into
manageable steps that you can try with your kids. If you’re stumped for
ideas, select a kids’ cookbook from the library or bookstore. Not only will this
be an activity your kids find fun, but also it will set you up with a snack or
meal that you can enjoy together.
4. Visit a Farmers Market. Involve your child in the kitchen-shopping process
by taking him/her to the farmers market with you. As you visit different
vendors, purchase vegetables and explore the area, your little one will get the
chance to learn more about where food comes from and who grows it.
5. Plan a Scavenger Hunt. If you’re willing to do a little prep work ahead of
time, you can set up a fun scavenger hunt for your kids that keeps them
entertained all afternoon, while also stretching their minds and muscles. “Warm or cold weather, there’s nothing more entertaining for kids than taking part in a scavenger hunt,” says Elizabeth SanFilippo at Care.com. “They’re great activities for babysitters to do with kids and can be fun for birthday parties,” she adds.
6. Work Your Way through Caldecott Books. Just because school’s out
doesn’t mean you can’t keep up with reading all summer — help your kids have some direction in their reading plans by printing a list of children’s books that have won Caldecott Medals and work through the list over the next few months. To keep your child inspired, offer special rewards at the end of goals completed: after you’ve read 12 books, for example, go see a movie or get ice cream.
7. Go Exploring. There are plenty of ways to teach your kids more about the world, from visiting local parks and examining foliage to taking summer road trips and showing them maps of where you are. Look for new ways and places to explore this summer to keep your kids entertained and excited
8. Work Learning Games into Daily Life. Find ways to show how math and
science relate to the real world, and you help your kids understand why they
matter. “For example, have your kids add up prices at the grocery store and
challenge them to tally up the final bill,” says Jennifer Peck at Edutopia.
“When going on drives, ask them to look for certain shapes, colors, letters or
words on billboards and signs.”
9. Hit Up All the Local Parks. If you’re like a lot of Americans, you’re
surrounded by parks and forest preserves in your community where
you can picnic, hike and play. Make it a goal with your kids to visit as many of these places as you can this summer and help your kids find fun beyond watching TV and playing video games. Even when the prospect of an entire summer without school may seem daunting,
takes heart: there are plenty of ways to keep your kids entertained
and energized throughout this season. Use the ideas above as a jumping-off point for keeping your kids busy — and help them to keep learning, stay active and have fun in the process.
David Reeves is the Marketing Director of Superior Recreational Products (SRP) in
Carrollton, GA. For more than 30 years, Superior Grounds For Play
(http://www.groundsforplay.com/), a division of SRP, has been focused on the design
of safe play structures that provide challenging physical and mental exercises for
specific age groups.
Tips For Parents To Help Their Kids Succeed On Test Day
As a parent, it’s only natural that you want to do everything you can to help your child reach his/her fullest potential — and that includes doing well on tests. Whether your child is in first grade or middle school, what are the best things you can do to help him/her feel confident and empowered when it’s time to take a test? How can you help your kids perform better and find greater levels of test-taking success? To help answer these questions, here’s a roundup of tips to try next time a test day occurs:
Start Early. Empowering your child to succeed starts well before test day. Even when your kids are very young, work to make learning fun by incorporating exploration opportunities into your everyday routine. Go to the library, read together, talk about the world around you and engage them as they ask questions. This helps their little minds develop an interest in learning that will serve them well throughout their academic lives.
Ask the Teacher. One of the best resources for helping your child do better on tests is the teacher, the person who is with your child every day and watching learning take place. “Teachers often offer a study guide for the test,” says Lora Shinn at Parents Magazine, “outlining the format and the featured information. If you haven’t received a study guide through your child or in an email, visit or call the teacher.” You might also want to ask about specific things your child is struggling with, ideas the teacher has for better test prep, etc.
Make Studying Fun. Especially when your child is young, he/she will likely study more and longer when the studying process feels fun. Whether you engage the whole family in a game about state capitals or get outside to practice something your son/daughter is learning in science class, when you find ways to make the curriculum that will be tested more interesting and engaging, you help your child pay attention and remember information more easily.
Verbally Encourage Them. Almost all children respond positively to verbal affirmation and a sense that their parents think they can succeed, so make it your goal to support your kids’ confidence with kind words that tell them you know they can do well. “Providing positive feedback for effort, celebrating successes and encouraging them to keep trying will help your children to feel confident in approaching assessments,” says Fiona Baker at the Kidspot Mums’ School Zone. A key point is to celebrate genuine effort above numerical grades — if your kids feel afraid of disappointing you, their stress and nervousness can lead to adverse outcomes on test day.
Work with Them. Let your child know that you’re available to help with studying or homework, and give him/her a sense that you’re on the same team. Kids who feel supported and helped in the learning process are often able to do better than kids who feel alone.
Provide a Healthy Breakfast That Morning. To help your kid have energy, mental clarity and fewer distractions at test time; provide a well-balanced breakfast especially on the morning of the test. “A balanced breakfast, consisting of complex carbohydrates, protein and fat gives energy and prevents a drop in blood sugar for several hours, until snack or lunch time,” says the San Francisco Unified School District.
Encourage a Good Night’s Sleep. Right along with a good breakfast, a good night’s sleep makes a huge difference in a child’s ability to stay focused and alert in the classroom. Don’t let your child stay up super late the night before a test, and take steps to make sure he/she gets appropriate rest.
From your children’s earliest days in school, tests are always a big part of the learning process — and they’re a part that you can encourage and empower them to do well on through a little help and support. Use the tips above to set your kids up with the kind of knowledge, energy and confidence they need to do their best when test day comes, and you’ll help them foster skills that can come in handy the rest of their lives.
David Serwitz is the Founder & CEO of the National Leader for In-Home Tutoring for grades K-12 and college students, Grade Potential. For 13 years, Grade Potential Tutoring has worked with thousands of families across the U.S. to help them achieve academic success.
No matter how No matter how safe parents try to make a child’s environment, toddlers, teens and tweens seem to find a thousand different ways to get hurt between school, playground and soccer field. When that happens, it can be terrifying for parent, as well as child. Parents must quickly transition from being “milk-serving” moms and “play ball” dads to triage specialists. Quick decisions must first be made to stop the flow of blood and then to where the most appropriate treatment can be found. All the while, parents must maintain a sense of calm and control while a child cries out in fear.
Doing nothing is not an option, because treatment is imperative with deep lacerations. “Your child’s skin is the barrier to the outside world so all lacerations should be addressed quickly, to prevent risk of serious infection or other health complications,” explains Robert Hage, MD Now Urgent Care Physician Training Program Director. Hage goes on to say that remains the same for facial wounds, “Immediate response is vital to maintain the cosmetic and functional integrity of your child’s face and eyes.”
Methods for Wound Closure
No two injuries are exactly the same, so it’s important to consult a doctor for personalized treatment. Urgent care centers like MD Now are equipped to treat your child’s cuts and wounds with a wide variety of options for wound closure, but many of those methods are puzzling for parents. This primer about wound closure methods will help.
Sutures – Between emergency rooms and urgent care centers, sutures remain the preferred method for everyday wound repair. Your doctor will apply a local anesthetic around the laceration, clean the wound, and then simply stitch together the skin. Usually, you will be asked to return to the doctor’s office within five to ten days so they can remove the stitches and make sure the wound is healing properly. Sutures come in a variety of thread gauges to ensure maximum mobility and functionality of the injured area.
Staples – Staples are one of the fastest techniques for wound closure, an invaluable resource for parents with squirmy kids. Like sutures, staples have a low risk of infection with minimal inflammation, but can be more expensive than traditional sutures. Most doctors prefer using staples for head injuries because the hair grows back quickly to cover any scars or marks left by stapling. Staples can also be used on your extremities when the wound needs to be closed as quickly as possible.
SteriStrips – These thin, adhesive strips generically, known as “butterfly” stitches, can be used to close small wounds. Your doctor applies the strips over the laceration to pull the skin on either side of the wound closed. SteriStrips can be used in place of sutures to reduce scarring in less severe injuries. Additionally, the procedure does not require any anesthetic and SteriStrips provide for easy care. Your doctor may also use SteriStrips to reinforce a wound previously closed by sutures or staples.
Sterile Glue – Dermabond® is a sterile liquid skin adhesive that holds edges of a wound together. Sterile glue is designed for low-tension areas, such as the forehead, eyebrows, and around the eyes. Dermabond® requires no anesthesia and can be a less scary alternative for children than sutures or staples.
When to Seek Emergency Care
When a laceration occurs at home, you can take several first-aid steps. Stop bleeding with direct pressure to the area around the wound and elevate the injured part of the body until you can seek urgent or emergency care.
If a child has more than a simple paper cut, it’s best to seek medical attention to prevent infection or other serious complications. An urgent care facility will want to see your child if he or she has any of the following types of lacerations:
• Wounds that are more than 0.25 inches (6.5 mm) deep, that have jagged edges or that gape open
• Deep wounds where you can see bone, fat, muscle, joint structures, etc.
• Facial wounds or lacerations around the eyes
• A foreign object embedded into the cut
• Wounds that have ongoing bleeding that does not stop after 15 minutes of direct pressure
“Rarely will a child move on to adulthood without having stitches or a broken bone at some point,” explains Hage. “Considering those odds, your worries about a fall or cut becoming a commentary on your parenting skills are fruitless. Instead, spend more time locating your closest urgent care center, learning what to do in case of an emergency and enjoying your carefree children.”
By Peter Lamelas, M.D., MBA, FACEP
As I go about my everyday wanderings throughout my home I can’t help but notice how little my formal dining room is used for its intended purpose. Instead it seems to be used more as a temporary storage area for school books, and folded laundry that is destined for the upstairs bedrooms.
Over the years I have questioned whether or not it was my lack of social skills that have led to infrequent formal dinners with guests, or was I just like the average American today who didn’t have the time for them. As time has passed, I have come to the conclusion that the latter was more the case. And I have proof!
As I watch today’s various home shows on television about selling homes or building homes, I can’t help but notice the complete lack of discussion on the need for formal dining rooms. Instead the needs and lexicon for modern homeowners now includes media rooms, home offices, and man rooms. Yes, man rooms. From what I can conclude they are effectively home sports bars. Kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms are also still important to today’s homeowners, but the need for a formal dining room has appeared to have faded away into Americana. One reason for the dining room becoming a relic of modern home culture is the change in lifestyle of Americans. I heard a report recently that indicated that only 35% of families say they gather regularly for dinner every evening.
The rest grab quick snacks or go out to restaurants per their individual family members’ schedules. This is not surprising when you reflect on the after-school activities we have signed our children up for. Today’s American family is constantly on the run and has little time for being a total family unit, including at the dining room table. To conclude, if you are in the process of building a new custom home, think twice about your lifestyle, as well as the lifestyles of future buyers of your home.
Like me, you may quickly come to the conclusion that an enlarged kitchen capable of supporting your cooking and family eating habits, and social gatherings, maybe a better alternative to a formal dining room. The space, that would have otherwise been used for a dining room, may be better utilized, and have more resale value, if it is instead used for a formal dining room. The space, that would have otherwise been used for a dining room, may be better utilized, and have more resale value, if it is instead used for a home office, media room, or dare I say Article Submission, a man room.
Over the past 20+ years Mark Donovan has been involved with building homes and additions to homes. For more information about DIY Custom Home and Home Addition Building and DIY Home Remodeling and Home Repairs visit homeadditionplus.com and homeaddition.blogspot.com.
Can I Get a Volunteer?: How Kids Benefit From Serving Their Community
by Lara Krupicka
Mitchell teaches at-risk youths how to sail a tall ship. Carly interprets the life of a 19th-century child. And Haley walks dogs at an animal shelter. What do these three kids have in common? They’re among the estimated 15.5 million young people who participate in volunteer activities. And like many others, these three kids are finding they get back more than they give through volunteering. Here are some of the benefits they’ve found (and your child could gain too):
Discovery of New Interests
Mitchell Smith hadn’t done any sailing before he joined the Topsail Program at the Los Angeles Maritime Institute at age 12. But now his mom says he loves being aloft aboard the 100-foot brigantines. “He found a passion for sailing,” says Mitchell’s mom, Sandy. “It opened him up to a whole new world.” In fact, Mitchell often volunteers as an excuse to get in more sailing. In a word, he’s hooked.
Volunteering gives kids a chance to try new things. In the process they can uncover talents and interests they hadn’t been aware of. Some may even go on to pursue college studies and careers inspired by their volunteer experiences.
Youth volunteers gain valuable exposure to interacting with the public they couldn’t get anywhere else. It requires them to exercise their communication and public speaking skills. In turn, this fosters confidence as students see the positive impact of their interactions. Carly Mulder, a junior interpreter at the Naper Settlement living history museum inNaperville,Illinoislearned early on that part of her role involved greeting museum visitors and fielding questions about the games and other activities she demonstrates. Karin, Carly’s mom, notes she’s seen Carly’s confidence improve from her involvement at the museum. “She’s learning how to interact with the public and how to have confidence in dealing with other people.” Wearing a costume and imagining herself as a person from a different era helped. So did special training provided by the museum.
Even behind-the-scenes roles can instill confidence as kids find success in completing the tasks they’re given. And connecting with fellow volunteers and coordinators can be enough to help reticent youngsters come out of their shells and develop valuable social skills. For some kids, simply the act of sharing their time and being valued for their service can build self-assurance.
Broadened Perspective on Life
Volunteer experiences also give kids a chance to get outside of their neighborhood and have contact with people who are different from them. Whether at a museum or a food pantry, volunteering opens up children’s horizons. It exposes them to more of the world – in a controlled environment where they can feel safe.
Haley McDonald’s mom, Bobbie, has involved her in a variety of volunteering experiences since a young age, including one while on vacation in theDominican Republic. “We went to a farm and helped with a project,” explains Bobbie. “It was a huge, broadening experience – seeing that everyone doesn’t live the way you live.”
While many volunteer opportunities are one-time events, kids can also sign up for regular shifts. Being committed to an ongoing position requires taking responsibility. Mitchell’s mom points out that it makes him prioritize his activities. He has to decide whether he’ll sign up for a sailing shift or do something else. And Carly’s mom sees how it has helped her daughter learn the importance of following through on obligations.
Kids also often get the opportunity to have increased responsibility in the role the play and the tasks they perform in their position as a volunteer. Mitchell has learned not only how to sail a tall ship, but also teaches others. And Carly hopes one day to move up to giving tours in one of the museum’s buildings.
When kids find a volunteer position that fits them well, the common response is, “it doesn’t feel like work”. When the position and the child’s interests match, to them it’s more like a chance to get out and play. This in turn can be a good step in helping them discover their vocation.
Taking along a friend, as Haley frequently does, adds to the experience as well. In fact, group settings can be a good introduction to a volunteer experience, such as through a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop or church youth group. When kids have fun during an initial stint, they’re more likely to sign up again in the future. And after a while they’re signing up because it’s something they enjoy.
Don’t underestimate what your child might have to offer an organization as a volunteer. And don’t underestimate the positive impact that experience can have on them. As these three young people have found, there’s a lot to be gained by giving your time to a local organization.