Monday, October 25, 2021

How do we inspire kids to give back?

We all have hopes for the future adults our children will become. We hope they will be successful, we hope they will be happy, and we hope they will make a positive impact on the world around them. We have schools and teachers to educate them, prepare them for a career in the world. We have family and friends to spend time with, to laugh with, and to show them what happiness is. That leaves making a positive impact. Yes, this may go hand in hand with the career they choose, but what if it doesn’t. What can they do, and how can we teach them the impact of being charitable. 

First and foremost, we inspire children through the example we set. A child who grows up in a charitable home, who takes part in volunteering or donating, will learn what it means to give back. It is important in these situations to always share the “why” with children. It is great to have them go through the motions of volunteering; however, it makes even more of an impression if they understand why they are volunteering. That lasting impression will be the reason they carry on the tradition of being charitable.

One of our volunteers reached out with a story about her son. For years she has been instilling in him the importance of giving back. She has done this by including him in volunteer opportunities, and explaining to him why she chooses to participate. One of the first opportunities she actively included him in was an environmental clean-up. He was five years old at the time. By the end of the day he was explaining to others the importance of keeping plastic out of the waterways, and why you shouldn’t litter. Five years later, and many more clean-ups under his belt, his conversation about taking care of the environment has become more detailed and compelling. At the age of eight he started helping shovel snow from the driveways and walkways of seniors in his neighborhood. While delighted to receive the occasional batch of fresh baked cookies in return, he was not doing this with the expectation of any kind of reward. Rather, he was doing this with an understanding that sometimes people need help, sometimes they are unable to do certain things, and for their safety and well-being, it is important to lend a helping hand. More recently, with the rise of food insecurities, he has been helping with meal deliveries and distributions, carrying boxes in and out of drop points, and running individual meals up to the homes of seniors in his community. Having these opportunities to volunteer, and to understand the importance of his actions, has left a lasting impression. He now jumps at the opportunity to help someone in need.

Giving back looks different for each family. Some families donate items, some give financially, and others donate their time. Many families, in anticipation of the holidays, have their children select some of their toys donate. Others will hand their children money to drop in a collection bin. Those who choose to donate their time do so in a variety of ways, as detailed in the story above. All of these ways of giving are important; all of them make a positive impact.

Children are also inspired by what they read and what they watch. Books like “The Giving Tree” and “When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars” contain powerful messages about giving, and appreciation. Movies like “The Lorax” and “Up” for younger children, and “Pay It Forward” for older children, teach valuable lessons about giving and caring. A follow up discussion on the books and movies will leave even more of an impression. Let the children tell you what they thought about the story, what they thought was important, how the characters made a positive impact on the world around them, and why that matters.

It seems appropriate to close with the words of Graham Nash, “Teach your children well.”  We are raising future adults. What we do, what we show them, will have a direct effect on who they will become. This November, in honor of GivingTuesday, what can you do to inspire your children to give back? 

Friday, October 1, 2021

Teens - The Leaders of Tomorrow

When thinking about the importance of leadership in teens, perhaps the best place to get input is from a teen. Fortunately for us, we have a couple of amazing interns here at Bergen Volunteers, and one of them gave us his thoughts on the topic.

Leadership is a necessity in today’s world. It is a leader’s job to inspire and to turn ideas into reality. With the ever changing world around us, new leaders are needed more than ever. Teenagers can be the answer to this need. Teaching them the skills necessary to succeed in leadership roles will help the community and the world around us.

Teenagers can greatly impact their community by volunteering and getting involved in events around their town. By participating in these events, teenagers experience and learn about the leadership needed in today’s world. Teenagers are the future of the world and they need to be able to step up to the challenges facing them. By learning about leadership, teenagers can start to organize their own events, whether it is fundraising or spreading awareness for a cause they believe in. This promotes growth in their community and inspires others to do the same. 

Leadership is also needed in everyday life. Teenagers are on the brink of adulthood, and that means they will be on their own in the world. At that point in their life it is important to be able to lead themselves into the direction they want to take with their life. By learning about what it takes to be a leader, it helps teenagers transition into being adults because they will be able to make the necessary decisions that will be presented to them when no one else is there to direct them.

Teenagers are the leaders of tomorrow.  The leaders that are in charge today won’t be in charge forever and the world will need to be able to trust their position with people that can fulfill the duties that need to be done. For a teenager, getting the experience early on helps them be more prepared for when they need to take the role of a leader. Teenagers bring with them new perspectives. The world changes constantly and the teenagers who have grown up in the new world are better suited for the problems that it presents.

Overall, leadership is a large part in teenagers’ lives whether it is in their community, for themselves, or for the future. Teenagers are still learning about the world around them and it is important that they learn about leadership to help make that world a better place.

At Bergen Volunteers, we recognize that teens are the leaders of tomorrow. We want to prepare them with the knowledge and skills that will set them up for success. That is why we run the Teen LEADS program for high school students. Participants in Teen LEADS learn about local government and public policy. They analyze community issues and develop new approaches to problem solving. The program is designed to get participants involved in their community to become effective community leaders.

If you would like more information on bringing Teen LEADS to your school, contact Jodi Murphy at