Getting your teenager involved in volunteerism and service can be a transformative experience that leads to a lifetime of helping others.
There’s ample of evidence demonstrating that volunteering and getting involved in a local charity fosters a sense of community and belonging. That goes for any age, even teens. Teens really want to be a part of something that’s bigger than them. Trust us and connecting them to a charity or cause they are passionate about is a way to tap this resource.
Getting them involved in charitable work will open their eyes to issues and opportunities they might not experience otherwise. Service becomes transformative because the teenager who is frequently the recipient of service (school, coaching, etc.) becomes the one providing service to others. This leads to a visceral understanding that they can impact their community and the world.
And once they’ve got a foot in the door, charitable work is also going to give them skills that they can use in school, or in life. They will help organize events, raise money, perform office tasks, produce written materials, lead others, etc.\
That experience looks pretty good on a college application, too. In the end, the most important thing is that your child will have the opportunity to explore her/his passions and gain a valuable learning experience.
There is also ample evidence that volunteering at a young age dramatically improves the chances that an individual will volunteer later in life.
So, how should you go about this? Here are a few ideas.
Make a passion play. What’s your teen into, like, really into? Reading? Approach your local elementary school or library and ask if they could read to younger kids, or maybe do some one-on-one tutoring. If they live and breathe soccer, or basketball, or softball, or baseball, contact an inner-city league and ask if your teen could be an assistant coach or an official/referee/umpire. Are they a budding young environmentalist? Have them organize a community clean up in your neighborhood or join an existing event.
Rally around them. There’s always a need. Shelters need toiletries and clothes. Food banks need non-disposable foodstuffs. Public parks need cleaning. Ask your teen what speaks to them and then encourage them to organize something, either on their own, with friends, or through their school. Once they start to garner some response, they’ll feel empowered by the responsibility.
Talk their language. You may curse Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all the ways they command your teen’s attention, but there’s an upside to their social media savvy, too. Social media is one of the most powerful tools around today for driving social change. It’s also an area that undermanned charities desperately need more help with.
The first step is to aks them what they are passionate about. Ask them, “if you were world czar, what would you change”. From there explore ways they think they could have an impact. Support them in their efforts to get involved, and then get out of the way because you will likely have unleashed their power to change the world.