“Giving is better than receiving.” This is what my daughter said when asked what she learns from volunteering. We have heard this often from people like Oprah and from our own parents. But why is giving better than receiving? When encouraging your teen to volunteer, consider these potential benefits.
- MAKING A DIFFERENCE In a world where it can seem impossible to affect change, volunteering can show a teen firsthand what they are capable of doing. Feeding the homeless, cleaning a roadside, or playing with foster kittens demonstrates to teens that their time and efforts (not money, not grades, not looks) impacts the world and those around them.
- SOCIAL RESPIT The halls of high school can be very socially exhausting. They are worried about looking good, academic excellence, being accepted, gossiping, and who likes who. When a teen volunteers, they are able to step out of that world and relax. The other volunteers are often different ages, from different social circles, and from different schools. The adult volunteers are generally very positive and reaffirming.
- FOCUS FREE No focus on academics or cleaning your room or hitting the fast pitch. Volunteering is time to focus on others and to allow your own needs and wants and concerns to take a back seat.
- APPRECIATION Knowing that there are people and animals out there that need help can put your teen’s woes in perspective. Not having a later curfew or getting a new pair of jeans doesn’t seem so bad when you realize that others are worried about how they are going to feed their kids.
- KNOW YOUR WORTH Our society is ultra-focused on academic achievement. Many teens think their report card reflects their self-worth. It is extremely important that we are praising and encouraging our children beyond the realm of academics. No matter what their grades are, volunteering gives EVERY teen the chance to feel competent and their moment to shine from the inside.
The one benefit you did NOT see on this list is that it increases the likelihood of being admitted to college. While that might be true, it is not a genuine reason to volunteer. If teens volunteer simply to make their resume more robust, they are losing out on the bigger picture. Don’t even bring this up to your teens. They’re counselors will make sure they figure this one out when filling out college applications.
One way to find out about local volunteer opportunities is to check out UnitedWay.com/volunteers.