SOURCE: Lion’s Heart

Lion’s Heart

May 25, 2016 17:31 ET

Could Volunteering Be the Cure for Bullying?

Volunteering Teaches Teens Empathy and Compassion

LAGUNA HILLS, CA --(Marketwired - May 25, 2016) - At Lion's Heart, an organization for teen volunteering founded in 2004, we find that volunteering gives teens a sense of community and belonging while teaching them empathy and compassion. Teens who are socially aware and empathetic to the plight of others are less likely to bully. Giving back to the community on a regular basis cultivates better physical and emotional health. By developing strong emotional and social skills, children learn to identify the difference between teasing and bullying.

Verbal, social, and physical bullying is real and highly present as early as elementary and through high school. According to over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying yearly in the United States and 160,000 teens skip school every day due to bullying. With the ease of accessibility to and the ever presence of the internet, children have the added resources at their fingertips to put thoughts, words and photographs into cyberspace for all the world to see. The mean note passed around in class now has a reach that we can't possibly imagine and it's not always just a note anymore. The ease of posting online, and the fact that it remains there forever, makes this a very stressful and, in many cases, a hurtful world for kids to grow up in.

"My son, Jacob, has Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic disorder that mimics autism and delays cognitive learning. I wanted him to be a part of a typical environment where kids learn to give back and make a difference in society. He received such a warm welcome from his group of peers when he recently joined Lion's Heart," said Steph H., mother of a ninth grade Lion's Heart Member. "Kids, like Jacob, get bullied by kids that don't understand how to be empathetic or have an understanding of what it is like to live with a disability. Joining an already established group of kids that have learned these skills through Lion's Heart made it an easy adjustment for him."

A study in 2012 by Melissa I. Gebbia, et al., in the North American Journal of Psychology, reported that teens that volunteered more in middle school bullied less later in life. Volunteering increased their interpersonal relationship skills and teens with the highest level of aggression toward others had the least volunteer experiences when they were younger. It was also found that children who volunteered handled their relationships and their emotions better than non-volunteers, which, in turn, increased kids' social and emotional skills.

"When I started Lion's Heart with my two sons, I saw firsthand that kids who actually interact with those who are different than them started developing empathy, compassion and understanding," says Terry Corwin, founder of Lion's Heart. "Now with over five thousand teen Members across the nation, a survey of our Members' parents found developing empathy in their children is a strong factor in them wanting their children to volunteer. In fact, that is why I started Lion's Heart to begin with!" 

Not only is volunteering good for your teen's health and well-being, it also is beneficial for those who fall victim to bullies. Fewer bullies mean fewer kids being bullied. If children learn, during childhood, the value of giving back to those who are less fortunate and they help in their community, they develop a larger sense of belonging. This affords them the skills to become leaders and socially conscious teenagers amongst their peers. According to a recent Lion's Heart Member survey, a majority of teens who volunteered in middle school and high school went on to volunteer and hold leadership positions in college.

About Lion's Heart

Founded in 2004, Lion's Heart is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit teen volunteer platform available to 6th - 12th grade students. The organization instills the value of community service in its Members, providing meaningful life skills through leadership opportunities and philanthropic experiences. Over the years, Members have performed a combined total of more than 510,000 volunteer hours, which equates to more than $11,000,000 in societal value.

Lion's Heart, headquartered in Southern California, has grown to more than 44 chapters across 12 states and is actively expanding its reach by adding new chapters daily across the country. Chapters have between three and twenty teens and are organized by gender, grade, and location. Though each group has a parent Class Coordinator, the teens elect their own officers, lead their own meetings, and decide how to serve their community -- with no fundraising. For more information visit their website or visit their Facebook page.

Gebbia, Melissa I., Martine C. Maculaitis, and Cheryl A. Camenzuli. The relationship between volunteer experience quality and adolescent bullying. North American Journal of Psychology 14.3 (2012): 455-70. Print.

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