How Important is it for Your Teen to Give Back?

I find myself posting this at least every other year because I really believe that it is important to teach your kids to give back.  Kids are very ME Centric and if you don’t have them giving back, they can get too wrapped up in themselves. It Makes sense because we act like the world revolves around them from the time they are born. So when they become teens they actually believe that the world revolves around them. It’s our job to teach them that it doesn’t.

The best way I know to do this is to get them involved in charitable events, for them to be making a difference in their community. Let’s look at all the different ways teens can make a difference from something as simple as “walk a neighbor’s dog,” to the more structured “become a peer counselor.” This list was developed by Youth Service America, a resource center and premier alliance of over 300 organizations committed to increasing the quantity and quality of opportunities for young people to serve locally, nationally, or globally, this list is sure to generate thought, discussion, and activity.

Through service, teens can be active agents of positive change in their communities. But figuring out how to get started in service can be intimidating for teens. The reactions can range from thinking there’s nothing productive to be done, to being overwhelmed with all the possibilities.

Involving the teens in creating a list of service activities, small and large, can help put the possibilities into the proper perspective. The following list, created by Youth Service America, can be a starting point for teens to create lists relevant to their own community’s needs.

100 Ways To Make A Difference In Your Community

  1. Help teach a younger child to read.
  2. Help cook and/or serve a meal at a homeless shelter.
  3. Gather clothing from your neighbors and donate it to a local shelter.
  4. Make “I Care” kits with combs, toothbrushes, shampoo, etc. for the homeless.
  5. Pack and hand out food at a local food bank.
  6. Adopt a “grandfriend” and write them letters and visit them.
  7. Visit senior citizens at a nursing home.
  8. Rake leaves, shovel snow, clean gutters, or wash windows for a senior citizen.
  9. Pick up groceries or medicine for an elderly person.
  10. Go for a walk with a senior citizen in your community.
  11. Deliver meals to homebound individuals.
  12. Hold an afternoon dance for your local nursing home.
  13. Teach a senior friend how to use a computer and the Internet.
  14. Paint a mural over graffiti.
  15. Invite local police officers to present a drug awareness or safety presentation.
  16. Tutor a student that needs help learning English or some other subject.
  17. Organize a canned goods drive.
  18. Clean up a vacant lot or park.
  19. Organize a campaign to raise money to purchase and install playground equipment.
  20. Plant flowers in public areas that could use some color.
  21. Volunteer to help at a Special Olympics event.
  22. Set up a buddy system for kids with special needs in your community.
  23. Raise money for Braille books for visually impaired people.
  24. Read books or the newspaper on tape for visually impaired people.
  25. Bring toys to children in the cancer ward of a hospital.
  26. Contact your local political representative about key issues.
  27. Register people to vote.
  28. Organize a public issues forum for your neighborhood.
  29. Volunteer at a polling booth the day of an election.
  30. Take a friend to the polling booths.
  31. Vote.
  32. Offer to pass out election materials.
  33. Plant a garden or tree where the whole neighborhood can enjoy it.
  34. Set up a recycling system for your home.
  35. Organize a carpooling campaign in your neighborhood.
  36. Adopt an acre of a rain forest.
  37. Clean up trash along a river, beach, or in a park.
  38. Create a habitat for wildlife.
  39. Create a campaign to encourage biking and walking.
  40. Test the health of the water in your local lakes, rivers, and streams.
  41. Contact your local volunteer center for opportunities to serve.
  42. Volunteer at your local animal shelter.
  43. Help build a home with Habitat for Humanity.
  44. Walk a neighbor’s dog or pet sit while they are on vacation.
  45. Teach Sunday school.
  46. Learn to be a peer counselor.
  47. Send a letter to one of America’s veterans or overseas soldiers.
  48. Volunteer at your local youth center.
  49. Participate in a marathon for your favorite charity.
  50. Become a candy striper at your local hospital.
  51. Mentor a young person.
  52. Serve your country by joining AmeriCorps.
  53. Become a volunteer firefighter or EMT.
  54. Donate books to your local library.
  55. Donate clothes to the Salvation Army.
  56. Start a book club in your area.
  57. Adopt a pet from the Humane Society.
  58. Hold a door open for someone.
  59. Give up your seat on the bus or train to someone.
  60. Donate your old computer to a school.
  61. Give blood.
  62. Coach a children’s sports team.
  63. Become an organ donor.
  64. Teach a dance class.
  65. Participate in Job Shadow Day (February 2).
  66. Organize a project for National Youth Service Day.
  67. Volunteer on a hotline.
  68. Meet with local representatives from your area.
  69. Don’t drink and drive.
  70. Listen to others.
  71. Write a letter to the editor about an issue you care about.
  72. Learn first aid.
  73. Shop at local, family owned businesses.
  74. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister.
  75. Take a historical tour of your area about your community.
  76. Write a note to a teacher that had a positive effect on you.
  77. Get together with some friends to buy holiday presents for a family at a shelter.
  78. Recycle.
  79. Drive responsibly.
  80. Get CPR certification.
  81. Don’t litter.
  82. Shop responsibly.
  83. Don’t spread or start gossip.
  84. Tell a custodian that you appreciate him/her.
  85. Hold a teddy bear drive for foster children, fire victims, etc.
  86. Make a care package for an elderly or shut-in person.
  87. Teach at an adult literacy center.
  88. Sing for residents at a nursing home.
  89. Befriend a new student or neighbor.
  90. Babysit.
  91. Look for the good in all people.
  92. Coordinate a book drive.
  93. Donate money to your favorite charity.
  94. Make quilts or baby clothes for low-income families.
  95. Bake cookies and bring them to your local fire hall or police station.
  96. Donate toys or suitcases to foster children.
  97. When visiting someone in a hospital, talk to someone that doesn’t have many visitors.
  98. Around the holidays, visit the Post Office and answer some letters to Santa.
  99. Start a neighborhood welcome committee.
  100. Visit to find volunteer opportunities in your area.What a great resource for teens and parents. I hope you enjoy it.

For more help with helping your teen to not be so self-centered, please contact me today.  I offer mother daughter retreats and mentoring that can help parents discipline their teens and maintain a close relationship with them.


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Debra Beck

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