For many families, the holidays are a time to give back. Your Teen asked award-winning author Annie Fox, M.Ed. for her top tips on how parents can help teenagers learn to pay it forward this season.
Pay it Forward Ideas for High School Students
1. Start with a family meeting.
The goal: To figure out, as a family, what will be your “holiday spirit” projects. Brainstorm ways the family can work together to help others. It might be something very local: committing to doing weekly errands for an elderly neighbor or collecting food for a food bank and/or delivering it to needy families. Or your helping hand might extend to a global reach through any of the outstanding organizations helping people throughout the world. Find out who’s doing what at CharityNavigator.org and support their efforts. Giving makes you (and any teen you want to inspire) part of the solution.
2. What if your teen isn’t enthusiastic?
Teens often try to show their independence by rejecting their parents’ ideas. Calmly let your teen know that while they cannot “opt-out” of participating in the family holiday giving project, you’re totally open to their ideas about what that project might be. Give your tech-savvy teen a lead role as Researcher who brings ideas to the table for the family’s consideration. Make sure you treat all suggestions with respect.
3. Is mandatory community service a good thing?
Yes. Mandating community service teaches teens that helping others is a requirement of life, an essential part of citizenship, and part of what it means to be a good person. When we prioritize service to others and make it a part of one’s education, we plant seeds of empathy and encourage a helpful, compassionate outlook amongst teens.
4. Is every teen capable of doing something significant during their adolescent years?
We all have, within us, the desire to connect with other people and to ease their suffering. For some of us, layers of hurt and disappointment have buried the desire to help. But the desire is still there. In fact, we are wired to care about each other. And all of us are more than capable of making a positive difference in the world. When teens are presented with a framework for helping others and are supported and encouraged to do good, they perform brilliantly and inspire younger children as well as adults.