4 ways to inspire your teen to give back

Teenagers outside cleaning up a park with quote: “If you give kids the inspiration and tools to change the world, it will change their own lives in the process” -Craig Kielburger of “Me to We”

When our sons were about 14 and 16, their lives revolved around friends, food, sports and girls. Pretty typical, right? They were kind, compassionate kids who had done some mandatory volunteering, but as their parents we wanted them to see the benefits of giving back.

Why is it important for teens to give back?

Learning to give …

  • Teaches youth about tolerance, thoughtfulness, and compromise.
  • Encourages behaviours that show respect, compassion and empathy.
  • Empowers youth to be responsible and compassionate.
  • Helps kids feel good about themselves.
  • Provides positive experiences which help children/youth reach their full potential.
  • Results in fewer problem behaviours and better success at school.

If we encourage our kids to be involved in brainstorming ideas and carrying them out (with parental supervision/guidance of course), then we will create “civically-minded” youth. This will, in turn, create adults who feel that giving is just a part of their value system. In simpler terms, it “fills their bucket” and at the same time fills the bucket for those to whom they are giving.

So how do I encourage my teen to give?

  1. Talk with your kids about current events and problems in your community. Listen to their thoughts with an open mind. This helps kids to learn to voice their opinions.
  1. Discuss opportunities:
  • Provide information on where they can volunteer in the community. Check out TRACK for upcoming volunteer opportunities for youth ages 13 – 18.
  • Help an elderly neighbour by cutting their grass and shoveling their snow.
  • Perform random acts of kindness such as picking up someone’s papers that fell out of their hands, or making a simple meal at home for mom and dad on the weekend!
  1. Be a good role model: Parents who participate in acts of giving are more likely to have kids who participate. If you treat others with respect, your children will learn from you. Start early to model caring, giving behaviour so that it’s just the family norm.
  1. Build a supportive relationship with your kids: Youth need to feel supported before they can become involved in giving back. Give positive feedback to encourage and challenge your teens. Help them to choose age-appropriate projects that aren’t overwhelming.

Woman and boy donating clothing

As a family, we talked about ways of giving to our community. My teens each came up with an idea: one wanted to play the violin for seniors in nursing homes (he’s actually quite talented if I do say so myself!) and the other wanted  to collect and deliver food for the local food bank.  In addition, as a family we decided we’d offer our time to work at a food bank for the next holiday.

So as you enter a new year, take the time to focus on teaching your teens about giving back – they may discover great joy in a different kind of present! And as a side benefit, it may get them off their darn phones! 😉

Do you have a story to share about your teens volunteering? Tell us! We would love to hear!

For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Tamara Kraszewski, RN

I’m passionate about connecting with parents and supporting them in their parenting journey! My nursing career began with caring for infants at the Hospital for Sick Children followed by working as a Public Health Nurse supporting parents with children of all ages. I’m the mother of two grown boys and when not at work, I enjoy cycling, swimming and time with family.
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