THE BLOG
09/15/2014 04:18 pm ET Updated Nov 15, 2014

Never Too Young to Give Back

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Given my passion for service, it is probably not surprising that I come from a family that gives back to others. In fact, it's because of my parents that I was first introduced to service around the age of eight and it's been part of my core ever since. And, I am proud to say that it's a tradition that continues as my three sisters raise my nieces and nephew.

Interestingly, just the other day I got an email from one of my sisters asking me for a little help in getting my 6-year-old niece involved in service. It seems that my beloved niece is suffering a bit from "only child syndrome," and my sister thought that service could be an effective way of teaching her daughter "really important lessons about being kind to people and the impact she can have."

Being a service advocate and proud brother/uncle, I was thrilled to get the email. As you may know, I am a big supporter of using the benefits of service as a motivation to act. And I firmly believe that regardless of that motivation, the service provided is invaluable to the recipients - creating a win-win. So, I will be helping my sister find service opportunities that are appropriate and lend themselves to the specific lessons she is looking to teach.

If you are looking to get kids involved in service, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
  • What do you want to get out of the service? If it's just a general introduction to service, the options abound. But, if you want to teach a specific lesson, you will need to narrow the field. For example, if you want to help your child realize how fortunate they are, you may want to seek out an opportunity that includes underprivileged kids vs. taking care of animals at the local shelter.
  • How much can your child handle? Certain types of service are incredibly difficult, even for adults. Do an honest assessment of how emotionally mature your child is today - not where you are trying to get them through service. Speak openly with the person organizing the potential service project, as they can help you land on something that is age-appropriate.
  • Are you ready? Be aware that exposing your kids to service, which likely means exposing them to situations and circumstances that are unfamiliar, is going to lead to questions. Be sure you are ready to answer so you aren't blindsided with inquiries about what can be an unfair and confusing world.
Having watched my older sister raise her kids, who are 11 and 13, to be service-minded, I know what a great tool service can be in teaching kids about the world and their role in it. Because they have been introduced to the concept of giving back from an early age, they have begun to develop great empathy for others while experiencing the great rewards of their actions. I know this is laying the foundation for some very Good Citizens.

I hope you will get the kids in your life involved in service. If they already are, share your story and tips with us.

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