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Building Family Relationships Through Volunteering

Family volunteer projects are a powerful way to build family relationships by accomplishing a common goal together.  Family volunteering provides members a way to grow relationships as they learn more about each other, see each other giving service, and have fun together while serving others.  Volunteer projects make memories and build character.  Some characteristics built through volunteering include responsibility, self-worth, compassion, tolerance, and sacrifice.  

Benefits of volunteering include improved mental and physical health, increased life satisfaction, increased social well-being, and decreased depression (Lawton et al., 2020; Yeung et al., 2018).  Studies reveal family volunteering leads to increased marital and family satisfaction, improved parenting and conflict resolution, shared experiences and values, and that volunteer projects foster bonding between parents and children (Lewton et al., 2012).  

Volunteer opportunities come in many forms.  It’s important that families find a good fit for their volunteering.   Keep the following in mind when searching for a family volunteer project:

  • Determine what is realistic in terms of resources of time and money.
  • Consider the duration of the project and flexibility in scheduling.
  • Keep in mind the health and talents of family members.
  • Decide together on the project.  Find a project that is meaningful to family members.  
  • Remember there are many virtual volunteering projects.

Family volunteer projects often include work, but make sure they also include a fun way to spend time together.  As families explore, carry out, and reflect on their volunteer projects they, in turn, build family relationships.  

For further resources and help in finding family volunteer projects visit: 
https://userve.utah.gov/family-volunteer/ 
https://www.showuputah.org/service 
https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/volunteer.html 
https://www.justserve.org/

References

Lawton, R. N., Gramatki, I., Watt, W., & Fujiwara, D. (2021). Does volunteering make us happier, or are happier people more likely to volunteer? Addressing the problem of reverse causality when estimating the wellbeing impacts of volunteering. Journal of Happiness Studies, 22(2), 599–624. https://doi-org.dist.lib.usu.edu/10.1007/s10902-020-00242-8 

Lewton, A. R., & Nievar, M. A. (2012). Strengthening families through volunteerism: Integrating family volunteerism and family life education. Marriage & Family Review, 48(7), 689–710. https://doi-org.dist.lib.usu.edu/10.1080/01494929.2012.700909  
Yeung, J. W. K., Zhuoni Zhang, Tae Yeun Kim, Zhang, Z., & Kim, T. Y. (2017). Volunteering and health benefits in general adults: cumulative effects and forms. BMC Public Health, 17, 1–8. https://doi-org.dist.lib.usu.edu/10.1186/s12889-017-4561-8

By Kari Ure, Extension Assistant Professor