It is heartening to know that Singaporeans truly enjoy spending time with their families (“Singaporeans crave more time with family: Poll”; Sep 7). One way families can spend quality and quantity time with one other is to volunteer together as a family, as the Tan family has done (“Family who volunteers together, stays together”; Sep 3).
There are many benefits to be reaped from helping others as a family. Firstly, family members build stronger bonds with each other since volunteering together involves teamwork and communication. It also gives parents precious opportunities to interact meaningfully with their children and impart important values. At Focus on the Family’s last Flag Day, a parent who volunteered with her family commented, “This is an opportunity for me to instill in my daughter the value of family and contribution to society.”
Giving back to society helps children develop values like compassion, perseverance and selflessness. As they watch their parents serve others, children learn to think beyond themselves and their own needs. Research has shown that children who volunteer exhibit higher levels of self-esteem, motivation, interest in learning and moral responsibility. They also gain valuable social and career skills, such as managing responsibilities and interpersonal communication.
If the volunteering experience is positive, it sends the message to our children that service unto others can be tough, but it can also be fun and fulfilling! One family who went to the streets to sell merchandise in order to raise funds almost gave up within the first fifteen minutes, had they not been chided by their child that they had committed to do good. They persevered despite the numerous rejections encountered and returned victorious – with all their “goods” sold! The experience has since become a lasting shared memory the family fondly looks back on and laughs about.
To begin, families can first identify specific communities or causes they care about, like the elderly or disabled children. There are various family-friendly volunteering opportunities that are easily searchable via the Internet. Some examples include being a befriender at a Children’s Home or assisting with simple chores at one of the many animal shelters in Singapore.
In today’s time-scarce society, encouraging families to volunteer together seems almost impossible. However, as MSF Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said, families will need to make the “active decision” to do so, and think about it – you kill two birds with one stone: helping others while helping your own family thrive!
Torres, G. (2003). The Future of Volunteering: Children Under the Age of 14 as Volunteers. RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved from https://www.serviceleader.org/instructors/studentpaper7.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015.