How to Keep Kids off Drugs? Volunteer!

Now it may seem a little harsh – but hear me out. A recent study out of Columbia, MO (just a few hours away from us and home of the MU Tigers) has reported that teens who volunteer report less drug and alcohol use. Yep, that’s right, There may be more benefit to signing your kids up to wash dogs or feed the homeless than just “giving back” – and it may give you more than reason to smile.


Teens who volunteer are less likely to use drugs and alcohol

The Thought Behind Teen Volunteering

The study stated that, “Parents want their kids to be kind, selfless, considerate and respectful. We now have evidence that these prosocial behaviors make adolescents less likely to break moral codes and engage in illegal activities like getting drunk and smoking marijuana.” And this makes total sense to me. The study evaluated teens living in rural areas, but I think this applies to teens in suburban areas too – like the KC Metro where our drug and alcohol testing lab is located. Teens who get involved through volunteering have their eyes opened to how other people live. Not only do they form positive character attributes by serving others – but they get a real first-hand dose of what other people go through. I know that from what I’ve seen, teens who volunteer frequently are more thankful for what they have and more willing to work hard to keep the same standard of life.

When To Volunteer?

I’d recommend getting your children started with volunteering as soon as you can – even as young children. Parents who engage in modeling volunteering for their children teach them early on how to give back to others. Parents can begin modeling volunteering even to infants, by finding opportunities that allow babies to be present or by doing work at home. By the time children are toddlers and elementary-aged grades, they will be asking for the next opportunity to volunteer. There’s something about helping others that kids love!

Volunteer Before Community Service

I recommend starting kids on volunteering as early as possible so that the activity is seen as fun and good – and not punishment. Volunteering turned to community service can lose some of the value. Teens may lose the lessons of giving back and respect when they’re forced to do acts of kindness for others to earn school credit – or lessen a punishment. Although community service is technically the same as volunteering, waiting to engage in volunteer opportunities around the community won’t instil the same values as volunteering without any particular purpose, or expectation of anything in return.

Looking for a volunteer opportunity? Check out Volunteer Match!

Looking to Volunteer in Kansas City? Check out VolunteerKC.

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