Each year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day corresponds with the Weekend of Service, a national endeavor to build community while meeting the needs of different organizations and individuals. It is an excellent time to explore service opportunities as a family and find ways to give back on a local level. Continue reading for tips on preparing your children to participate in the Weekend of Service activity of your choice.
After explaining the essence of the Weekend of Service to your children, have a discussion about what areas of service they would be interested in exploring. Is there a particular issue that is already near and dear to your family? If not, bring up different challenges present in the world today - environmental concerns, illnesses, food insecurity, and animal welfare are just a few options. As you consider them together, see if there is a topic that inspires greater enthusiasm, interest, and/or compassion. Working to fill a need or address a problem is more meaningful and more likely to become an ongoing pursuit if it’s an issue you and your children are passionate about.
Once you decide on a topic, do a little research to find an activity that connects with your chosen interests. Consider whether you’d like to work on a project from the comfort of your home or out in your community. Make sure that minimum age requirements and necessary time commitments work for your family. Review the needs and requests of any organization you choose to work with to ensure that you are able to comply with them. Finally, let your kids weigh in on the options you have found.
When the time comes to carry out your Weekend of Service project, make sure you have all materials you need, if any, and that your children know what their roles are. If you’re working with a group, model how to observe and take advice from people who are already familiar with the task at hand. Minimize distractions as much as possible to keep yourself - and your kids - in the moment. Most importantly, try to relax and enjoy the event!
Leave space to debrief once you have completed the service project. How did it make your children feel? Do they have any worries or concerns after participating in the activity? Listen to their responses, reassure them as best you can, and seek resources if they have questions you are unsure how to answer. We are happy to offer suggestions or support as needed.
Repeat (if you choose!)
If your family had a positive experience, consider making your chosen activity a more regular occurrence. The Weekend of Service may be a singular event, but one of its goals is to inspire participants to seek consistent service opportunities throughout the year. That said, there is nothing wrong with realizing that your chosen project didn’t really click with your children. There are so many other service opportunities out there - don’t be afraid to keep looking!
If you are excited to partake in the Weekend of Service but are still unsure of where to begin, consider testing the waters at a family-friendly community event like the ones organized by Volunteer Fairfax, Rock Creek Conservancy, Volunteer Arlington, or Nest4US. No matter how you choose to participate, we hope your family finds a service opportunity that feels both impactful and important to you.