In Hong Kong most students pursuing the International Baccalaureate certification are expected to participate in CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) activities. The goal of these activities is to help children develop a holistic well-rounded perspective. The activities are mandatory. Outside of CAS, should children be encouraged to participate in volunteering activities?
One benefit of volunteering is to build your child’s CV, and consequently to improve their “chance” to gain entry to an elite university. I am not encouraging you to push your child into volunteering as part of a helicopter parent or over-parenting agenda, but rather to help them explore volunteering as a means to develop independence, resilience and empathy. These traits are predictors of success in life, not just at university
Psychological benefits of volunteering:
- World-centered vs self-centred
Exploring the plight of others helps teens see that other people experience significant challenges, helping them see the world outside of their secure and (frequently) privileged Hong Kong lifestyle. Regular voluntary work increases the development of empathetic and altruistic behaviour. The voluntary action of giving your time and energy to help others aids in the development of compassion and gratitude.
- Improved psychological functioning
Volunteering helps in reducing stress and anxiety, as connecting with others encourages proactiveness, wards off loneliness, and helps to combat the growing psychological culture of individualism and self-absorption.
2. Give teens a sense of satisfaction
One of the primary psychological benefits of volunteering is the sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction that accompanies working to make a positive difference.
3. Health benefits
For both adults and teenagers, research from the United States by Federal Government’s Corporation for National and Community Service and The University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Education and Department of Psychology, have indicated that people who volunteer regularly experience better cardiovascular and mental health, including happiness and resiliency. Your child will live longer and be happier.
4. Allows teens to change their internal dialogue: change ‘Would’ into ‘Will’
Helping others provides teens with a valuable sense of purpose and meaning, allowing them to identify the morals and principles that they hold in high regard and then act upon them. Being aware of one’s priorities becomes rewarding once you are able to live those values and believe that you are channelling your time and efforts to make a difference. Therefore, instead of internalizing what you ‘should’ and ‘would’ do, start tackling what you ‘can’ and ‘will’ do to make a change.
For young people today, working for a charity is generally not seen to be a serious career option or even a legitimate tool for progress. However, the mental health benefits, although still a novel concept, far outweigh the overly simplistic view that volunteering is only a stepping stone to other career options. Despite this, there are a huge variety of ways for someone to serve and help others, whether you sort donations for a local charity or assist caring for children in an orphanage, both big and small acts reap psychological benefits.
You will often find that you will get more out of it than you give.