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Wednesday, July 01, 2009
5 Ways to Get Your Kids Interested In Community Service

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By Grace Chen

According to the US Department of Labor, about 26.4 percent of the population volunteered for an organization in 2007-2008. Of those volunteering, teens comprised 29.4 percent of the whole, an increase from previous years. Sparking your child's interest in something beyond a video game or sports celebrity may seem hopeless, but there are a few ways to help spur youth to social action.

Make it Timely and Fun

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and a multitude of blogging and micro-blogging services have made modern communication immediate, widespread, and beneficial for charitable causes. Teen Beach Cleanup - How To Get Your Kids InvolvedChances are your teen is already a member of an on-line forum or community. You can help them use their already-established net presence as a community service. Personal profile information on these services can usually be modified to include links to personal or other websites. Why not devote that space to raising social awareness by linking to homepages of charitable organizations, adding a charity badge? Profile updates can also be used to spread news of charitable events or awareness of social concerns.

Appeal to Their Interests

Most youth have at least one passionate interest or activity. With a little encouragement, you can help them parlay it into community or charitable service. A fledgling writer might create a blog or newsletter to promote a specific charity or cause. The budding chef could organize a bake sale or cakewalk and donate the proceeds. Future medical professionals might visit the children's ward of a local hospital, or volunteer at a free clinic or with The Red Cross. Those interested in the arts could organize—and participate in— a crafts fair or music festival and donate proceeds. Athletes and gymnasts might hold exhibition games or matches for charitable donations.

Make It Personal

Perhaps someone you or your child knows suffers from a disease such as cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, or other disorder. The proximity of that person might inspire your child to act on their behalf. Relay for Life, Step Out for Diabetes, The 3 Day and other marathons are great ways to further these particular causes.

Show the Results

Share some local success stories with your teen. Take them to rallies, expose them to promotional materials, or find a friend or neighbor who may have benefited from a charitable service to share his or her testimonial. Seeing the fruit of charitable efforts can be a great motivator, and breed further positive results.

Set an Example

Like it or not, children emulate our own actions. If you truly want your child to be socially conscious and serve through volunteerism, then you must lead the way. Set an example of civic mindedness and responsibility by volunteering for your own cause or organization.

The percentage of teenage volunteers has risen steadily over the past few years. With the use of more advanced technologies, targeted interests, better communication and education, and demonstration of success, those numbers can continue to rise as we strive with our children to affect positive change in the world.

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