By Jamie Kirschner
How many times have you shaken your head in disbelief with how ungrateful your child is, unappreciative, entitled? How do we UNTEACH those characteristics? Teens especially, is it too late? No way, absolutely not!
Research is very clear, helping people brings happiness, increases self-esteem, leadership skills, dependability and time management. It’s never too late to teach gratefulness, appreciation and empathy. The lessons gained and joyfulness felt while volunteering are endless for our youth.
The answer is so simple. As a parent and community member, model how to GIVE BACK, GIVE OF YOURSELF, and to HELP OTHERS. It might not be an easy sell at first. You’ll get the eye rolls and the withdrawal to the bedroom but push through it and stand your ground. I guarantee, you’ll be a happier mom too!
Not only can you teach quality characteristics to aide your teen in being a better person, but you can begin the process of earning/documenting volunteer hours. Colleges, future employers, look highly at applicants who can show dedication and commitment to their communities, especially when the teen has taken initiative and started their own project.
TIPS TO GET YOUR TEEN INVOLVED
Step 1: Find a project you and your child can do together, at least for the first time he/she volunteers.
You can begin the topic as, “I need your help with……”
There’s plenty of opportunities around any community.
- Local churches
- Ask on social media who needs community service
- Local schools, especially the clubs within high schools
- Contact United Way or other local non-profits
- Do some yard care or housecleaning for a neighbor
- Babysit for a single mom, for free
- Collect shampoo/conditioner bottles from hotels and distribute to homeless shelters
Step 2: Don’t overdo it.
Allow your teen to ease into the experience by committing to no more than two hours the first experience. Try not to overshadow or be a helicopter parent (hovering too close, not allowing for independence). Encourage the volunteer coordinator to communicate any directions, rules, etc… directly to your child.
Step 3: Talk about how it felt.
Most teens when finished volunteering, have a smile on their face. Take a few minutes to discuss the look on their face or recall a moment while they were working that made you proud. This allows for them to be “in the moment” and “feel” the effect of giving back. Also, this allows you to bond and praise them for their work, which all kids desire.
Step 4: Continue to listen to and encourage any ideas your teen has about helping in other ways.
Don’t be surprised if the first volunteer opportunity isn’t for them, but keep talking. Listen to topics your teen seems passionate about and use that passion to platform or launch ideas on how they can get involved for a bigger, better cause.
What are some local opportunities for teens in your area? What have you seen teens gain from helping others? We are excited to hear about your experiences and share knowledge with others!