Not sure how to tempt her off the cell phone and into a community project? Teens buy into community service when the project or program revolves around something they are already interested in. Maidenberg states, "Finding something in an area of interest for them keeps them motivated and inspired." For instance, if she has plans to become a veterinarian, she might try volunteering at an animal hospital. If she is interested in going to culinary school, she might volunteer in a soup kitchen or bake for a project that supports families in need over the holidays. My son began helping out with the sound system at our church to fulfill community service hours for Confirmation. Since he is a tuba player and very interested in sound, he found that he loved helping out and has continued volunteering even though his required hours are complete. If your teen does find a volunteer project in her area of interest, she is not only helping others, but building her knowledge base as well.
Parents can do their part by practicing what they preach. Parents who are involved in community service themselves serve as good role models for their teens. Teens should be learning directly from their parents that personal gratification is not all that matters. You might want to find a project that the whole family can do together. It's refreshing to spend quality time as a family while helping others. Maidenberg suggests that you show a movie about the cause. "It is very important to induce empathy in them," she explains.
Let your teen know the benefits he'll reap. Maidenberg advises, "Give them every reason in the world to volunteer." She says that working on community service projects builds confidence. "By working with others, teens improve managerial, interpersonal, and communication skills. Community service helps to instill a maturity when they take a step back to see the needs of other people," she adds. Another perk: Service hours look great on a resume!
It's thrilling to watch your teen develop into a caring and productive member of society, so don't waste any time encouraging him to get started. Still not sure where to begin?
Most communities offer volunteer opportunities for teens at:
- Animal shelters
- Senior residences
- Homeless shelters
- Coats for Kids Foundation - new coats for disadvantaged or at-risk kids
- Habitat for Humanity - building affordable homes for the less fortunate
- Locks of Love - hair donations to make hairpieces for children with cancer
- Operation Gratitude - sending care packages to our military men and women