A hospital is another institution that can be scary to kids and even many adults. It can be intimidating and uncomfortable to be around sick people, but it's also important to teach children compassion -- how to see through illness and physical differences to our shared humanity. Kids are kids, after all, and everyone can use a friend.
If there is a children's hospital in your area, call and speak to the volunteer coordinator. See if there are opportunities for you and your kids to come in and play with kids in the waiting areas or bring in the family pet to visit with kids in the cancer ward. There is usually an application process to volunteer in a hospital, but the staff and especially the patients are always grateful for the effort.
If you don't think your kids are ready to volunteer in a hospital, think about other ways you can serve those who are struggling with an illness or disability in the family. Here are some ideas from the Web site The Volunteer Family:
- Bring a meal over to a neighbor's house when a family member is in the hospital. Have the kids help prepare and deliver the meal.
- Offer to host families who have traveled to your town for a medical procedure. The kids can help entertain their children.
- If you have a neighbor with disabilities, offer to take him with you and your family to a baseball game, a picnic, or a community event.
- Have the kids grow out their hair and donate it to cancer patients through an organization like Locks of Love.
For our final volunteering idea, we'll explore the opportunities available at local retirement homes.