We’ve all heard how giving back can be good for our teenager’s overall health and well-being, so we asked Dr. Meghan Barlow, a psychiatrist with the Cleveland Clinic, how to encourage teenagers to get started with volunteering.
The Benefit Of Helping Others
Doing good deeds allows teens to learn and practice important skills, such as social awareness, perspective taking, empathy, and in some cases, organizational skills. For most people, helping others is intrinsically rewarding; we feel good when we know that we have made other people feel good. Here are some ideas to encourage your teenager to start doing good:
1. Model it.
Remember, teens will be more likely to do what they see you doing. If you want your teen to begin to make a practice of doing good deeds for others, make sure you are doing good deeds yourself. Take your teen with you when you drop off dinner for a sick friend, and hold doors for people when you are out running errands.
2. Notice it.
Notice when your teen does good deeds for you, and show them you appreciate it. Positive reinforcement goes along way to motivate teenagers, while negative reinforcement (like nagging about doing good deeds) does not.
3. Motivate them.
Some teens may need more encouragement or external rewards to begin doing good deeds. Remind your teen that volunteer work is great for job and college applications. In fact, the Common Application has up to 10 spots for extracurricular activities and while there’s no need to fill in all of them, teenagers should have a couple of activities to share. Volunteering is a time-honored extracurricular to help teenagers get into college.
4. Help them get started.
Encourage your teen to think about what they enjoy, and then help them find a related organization or charity that needs help in your community. Suggest they enroll some friends in their project so they can make it a social experience as well.