It can be quite a challenge to get teenagers to focus on anything other than the latest fashion and the latest technological gadgets, but instilling a sense of volunteerism and community service can go a long way toward making young people responsible and well rounded. This sense of responsibility and community service will be important, of course, as those teenagers grow and enter the world of college and career. It is never too early to instill a sense of community responsibility and involvement, and children of all ages can benefit from those experiences.
One thing that comes as a surprise to many parents is just how much many teenagers and older children love to volunteer. After those teens have spent the summer building computers for disadvantaged kids, or building houses for disadvantaged adults, many of them go back again and again, seeking a feeling of purpose and meaning that is often absent in today's consumer obsessed culture.
The advantages of such community service and community involvement are many, from a greater feeling of self satisfaction and self esteem to a better perception from college admission officers and hiring managers down the road. Many company managers and college officials are looking not only for the best and the brightest academically but for workers and students with a sense of purpose and a sense of caring for the people around them. They know that those with a strong commitment to volunteerism and community service tend to make the best workers, and the most dedicated and hard working students as well.
There are of course plenty of volunteer opportunities out there, for older children, for teenagers and even for their parents. From church groups and community organizations to government programs, the need for volunteers is nearly endless. Simply looking around the community is a great way to connect the teens in your life with appropriate volunteer opportunities that will motivate and challenge them.
It may be a good idea to allow the teens in your home to choose the volunteer programs that appeal to their talents and their sense of community. A computer savvy teen, for instance, may want to spend the summer rebuilding discarded computers to give to disadvantaged youth and under-equipped schools. The teen who loves to sing and perform may want to put his or her talents to work entertaining residents at the local nursing home or hospital. And the teen who loves the outdoors and building things may want to volunteer with an organization that builds houses for the poor. No matter what the nature of his or her talents, chances are there is a volunteer organization just waiting to utilize those abilities.