The Adults We Create: The Next Generation of Volunteers (by Andrea Martin, 11946)

Introduction

andreapicAs children, we all have someone we look up to and emulate. When we dream of what we want to be when we grow up, we have a picture in our head of that person whom we admire. There is always someone or something that inspires us. This is one of the earliest impressions made in carving out the person each child will grow into. Children are hopeful and see the best in people. They are so impressionable and innocent in their unwavering belief in the people they love and admire. This got me to thinking. What kind of children will I raise? When my girls look at me, what kind of person do they see? Do I inspire them? If they grow up to be like me, is that enough? Or is it even good? How do we raise a child to be civically engaged?

When we choose to become a parent, we take on the responsibilities of caring for, providing for and nurturing another human being. The person they turn out to be is on us. There are choices to be made in order to raise loving, compassionate and giving individual. What we expose our children to from an early age, will help to define the adult they will be. After reading the blog: “Single Parenting and Volunteer Work: A Common Bond”, I was inspired to be the kind of Mom that would raise such a caring teenager and adult. I want my children to be proud of the person that I am and aspire to be like me. So when I chose my community work, I wanted to do something that my girls could be a part of. I wanted them to be hands on and to understand what it is to give back to others. We chose to make fleece tie blankets for a few children who’ve been hospitalized. This was a project that we could do from home and would allow my girls to be involved.

Children are at their most impressionable until about 6 years of age. They learn by observing the world around them. They emulate what they see and hear. It wouldn’t be farfetched to assume that they can learn empathy and compassion from an early age by watching their parents. If their parents get them actively involved in civic engagement, they will learn to empathize with those whom they are helping. This all serves to create community attachment. That is, fostering a sense of belonging and responsibility to one’s community.

Not only will children learn lifelong lessons in recognizing community issues, planning solutions and implementing those solutions, it can also help disadvantaged youth. Youth that would be considered high risk for juvenile delinquency can focus in a positive way and stay busy. They can help their communities instead of getting into trouble. Studies show that in 2010 only 26.1% of college students participated in volunteer projects. This is why it’s so important for us as parents to set the example from a young age. As I learned through this experience, there are many more opportunities available for young children than I realized. Let’s get involved now and lead the charge in raising compassionate youth with a strong sense of community attachment through civic engagement. There are many opportunities to, just a few listed below, to get yourself and your children active in civic engagement. As well as many a few source that show the benefits of volunteer work, for youth as well as the community.

How to Get Informed:

  1. Flanders, Nancy. “How to Raise a Compassionate Child.” Catholic Digest6 (2013): 13. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. This article talks about the level of compassionate ability of children. They are at their most impressionable at a young age and are able to learn compassion very easily. It also talks about how children relate from their stand point to other children, animals and stuffed animals. There is good information on ways to help raise a child to be a compassionate and empathetic adult.
  1. Boulianne, Shelley, and Michelle Brailey. “Attachment to Community and Civic and Political Engagement: A Case Study of Students.” Canadian Review Of Sociology4 (2014): 375-388. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. This study discusses the ways in which community attachment are measured in adults and youth. It also discusses the circumstances that change the way community attachment is measured.
  1. http://education.ufl.edu/learnandserve/resources/Research/07_0328_disadvantaged_youth.pdf.  This website has really good information on the benefits of volunteering for youth. It also discusses the differences in the number of youth volunteers are from disadvantaged circumstances compared to others. The information is based off of a survey done. It discusses the different volunteer behaviors of disadvantaged youth compared to others from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Ways to Get Involved:

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