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4 Tips to Get the Most out of Serving with Your Kids

We are all busy doing good things.  Through the work of my church and my own work in the community, I do “good things.”  As adults, we do a variety of good things from donating to charities, taking unused items to those that need them, taking meals to friends and family, inviting others into our house for meals, and just trying to be nice and sharing.

For awhile, I thought that would be enough to help my children learn about service.  They would see me doing it and sometimes help with it.  And, although each of those “good things” is important to do, I feel a drive to be more deliberate in teaching my children about service.  I need to get them serving more, not just watching me serve.

To do this, I have learned 4 Tips to Help Me Get the Most Out of Serving with Kids-

Tip 1:  Continue to overcome my own shyness

One of the obstacles that I have to overcome each time we go out into the community is my own shyness.  I am extremely shy and work very hard to be more outgoing as an example to my children.  So, for those “Pennies of Time” Adventures that require coordination with another entity or organization, I take a deep breath and jump right into doing it.  If I hesitate, I choke.  So, I just remember that often repeated phrase of:  Just Do It.

Tip 2:  Embed the experience within the day
I have the best days serving with my kids if I make sure that the adventure is on the way to complete our typical activities.  For example:  Cleaning trash on the side of the road on the way to baseball class.  I try to plan the adventure using the typical environments that we are in everyday to serve.  Because, frankly, if I have to go out of my way to go to a new place every day, I will get overwhelmed and stop doing this.  boo on that.  So, I embed most “Pennies of Time” Adventures within the day.  At least once a week, we go outside our typical sphere for our adventure.  I think this is important as well.

Tip 3:  Balance the serious and fun service activities
Sometimes when we serve, it can have a serious tone.  For instance, one elderly lady in a nursing home was almost scary for my boys (5 years and 3 years) to see.  My young kids can handle a certain amount of the serious side of serving.  I want to build habits and memories now that will propel successful service activities in the future.  To do that, I try to balance that out with the fun elements of serving as well.  I am assuming that as they get older, I’ll be able to introduce more diverse environments to them that are more serious.  For now, I really try to strike a balance.  Frankly, right now while they are young, I err on the side of those activities that they easily find meaning in and are fun.

Tip 4:  Put words with the adventure.
One of the greatest results of serving others is the conversations that we have throughout the experience.  My boys constantly amaze me at the depth of empathy and insight when I try to have a thoughtful conversation about what we are doing.  Although the youngest is limited verbally, he does hear the language that we use and can understand the tone and purpose of the event.  A wonderful consequence of doing this is that they will use the language of service that we used during our service acts in recognizing service needs around them that we didn’t plan.  “We need to go serve her, Mom,” is a simple example.

What works for your family in maximizing effort in serving when you serve with your kids?

Need help to develop their language on helping others? Try books to have a conversation.
Children's Books on Kindness and Service