Generation Z – those born in or after 1996 – are known as the ‘philathrokids’ generation. Older generations like to say, ‘You’ve never had it so good,’ but according to research, 76% of Gen Z are worried about the planet. That’s a lot of stressed young people! 60% of them also want to make a difference, and this is where age appropriate volunteering can come in as the perfect solution. From feeling better, to learning new life skills, volunteering has tonnes of benefits for children and young people.
1. Do good, feel good! Research conducted in the US showed that people that do good deeds for others feel better about themselves and the world they live in. Doing a good thing for someone else leaves feelgood endorphins in your body far longer than anything you might do as a treat for yourself. So straight off the bat, volunteering could help children and young people to reduce their stress levels.
2. It’s great for getting out of the house. Knowing that there’s a group of people waiting for you to go and do something important is a brilliant incentive to get
away from all those screens and actually be in the real world. And while we’re
talking about moving away from the house…
3. It’s great for getting moving! As children progress through their school lives, they move less and less. Even in infant school, by age 6, as testing starts to come in, they spend less time moving around and more time sitting down. According to the NHS, sitting for long periods of time is thought to reduce metabolism, meaning that we’re storing fat and developing high blood pressure – putting us at risk of all kinds of crappy health conditions in later life. Children start to learn these bad habits right from the start, so get them volunteering and make physical movement a normal part of their daily lives.
4. REAL quality time with parents or peers. Going shopping or watching a film together might be fun, but spending time focused on achieving a specific goal, whether that’s serving up food at a women’s refuge or watering the plants in the local community pots and tubs, is a brilliant way to spend proper quality time with either a parent or their peers. There is a common objective to work for while you’re there, and loads to talk about afterwards, both of which are fantastic for strengthening relationships. And lets not forget those feelgood endorphins that you’re all sharing now.
5. Volunteering can provide life skills. Taking a child to an allotment for some community gardening will enrich them for life, so that they can go away and grow their own food, becoming more sustainable and self-sufficient. Or a young person could be taking care of animals, or reading to younger children, learning to cook or clean, or to care for the elderly – all basic life skills, that we generally don’t get to to learn until we’re having to deal with it in our own lives. Volunteering gives a young person the chance to learn something truly valuable for later on. And in terms of personal skills, youth volunteers say that their experiences have taught them patience, empathy, respect, and understanding of
what citizenship really means.
6. Safe exposure to more difficult experiences. Life can be hard – really hard – but we’re not always taught what that looks like. Volunteering puts children and young people in a place where, surrounded by caring, experienced and supportive adults, they can safely look directly at the effects of homelessness, of drug or alcohol abuse, or mental health issues. They can see what happens when animals are badly treated, or how the aging process affects us. They can explore what’s happening to our planet politically or environmentally. It’s a great way to allow young people to have open conversations they might not otherwise have,
and space to reflect on the choices they might make for themselves as grow up.
7. Discover and hone new skills. Depending on the environment they’re in, the volunteering teen may find they’re actually really good at public speaking, or that they have a gift for acting, for cheering someone up, calming a nervous
animal, or problem solving, for example. It could just be the spark they need to light a passion for a lifelong career.
8. Looks great on a CV. Applying to university is getting tougher all the time, with lots of people applying for limited places. Being able to demonstrate a life
outside of academia – and showing that they’ll contribute positively to life on campus – could make the difference between a conditional or unconditional offer.
9. Improves confidence and self-esteem. So, we know that volunteering reduces stress, provides life skills, can reveal talents, gives great bonding time with parents and/or peers and helps children and teens explore difficult topics about the world they’re growing up in, as well as teaching them how to respectfully interact with those around them. The result is a calm, confident and happy young person who is ready to face the challenges they’ll inevitably meet.
10. Last, but by no means least, volunteering fires up the community spirit. Teaching our kids the ways in which they can make a difference to their world shows them that they CAN be the change they want to see. The more that we can them get involved, the stronger the community network becomes – and that can only be beneficial to all of us.