Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sue Scheff: Troubled Teens Volunteering - Building Self Confidence Through Helping Others

As a Parent Advocate and Founder of Parents Universal Resource Experts, this recent article from Connect with Kids is about what we deal with on a daily basis. We constantly encourage parents to get their teens involved in giving back – volunteering and simply building their self worth through time spent helping others. Especially with the upcoming school break, encourage your kids to get involved. Click here for some great ideas to do as a family.

Helping others helps these teens understand how important they are.

Source: Connect with Kids

Troubled Teens Volunteer

“You get to see how they’re reacting, how they feel and how much they enjoy what you are doing for them.”

– Jana, 20, food pantry volunteer

This is the season of sharing and caring about others. And no one does that more than American teenagers. According to the latest Harris Poll 56 percent of teens are out in their communities volunteering and some of them are the most unlikely of teens.

For bad grades, for fighting or for using alcohol or drugs – these teens have all been kicked out of school and sent to volunteer at this food pantry.

Nearly all say they thought they’d hate it. “And it’s actually, really, really fun,” 16-year-old Lashika says.

“It makes me feel like I’m doing something important with my time,” 20-year-old Jana agrees. “That I’m helping other people out and that they’re getting what they need.”

And that’s the point, the experts say. Helping others helps these teens understand how important they are.

“I mean, we’ve had people who come in here, and they literally are crying. You know, ‘thank you so much,’ and hugging these kids’ necks,” says Deborah Swank, executive director of Hearts to Nourish Hope. “It makes a big difference, and it makes them see themselves differently – ‘Well, you know if I could do this, maybe I can do something else.’ If these troubled teens get so much out of giving, maybe other teens can, too. The first thing they have to learn is what a lot of people say but not many believe: Each one of us can make a difference.

“It’s an overwhelming problem – what can one person do, what can my child do – and it’s important to teach them that there are ways that one person can make a difference,” Swank says.

“It makes you happier. You know, helping people out brings something out in you that you usually wouldn’t feel,” 15-year-old Tristan says.

“If a child lives with sharing,” Dorothy Law Nolte writes, “[he or she] learns about generosity.” Research shows parents can do a better job when it comes to teaching their children about kindness, generosity and caring for others.

Tips for Parents
What can be done to help improve the ethics of children and to make them more thoughtful and generous? The National Network for Child Care says responsive parents and teachers “can lead children away from materialism.” The following suggestions will help strengthen children’s self-esteem and sharing abilities:

Model sharing and giving: Your kindness and willingness to share with your children encourages them to do the same.
Recognize children’s spontaneous gestures of sharing: Emphasize the results of their kindness to others.
Recognize the many ways children share: They may invite someone to join them in playing with a toy they with which they are already playing. They may loan a child something. Or they may give something permanently to another child, like a cookie.
Help children develop a healthy sense of ownership, and give them opportunities to share special belongings: Encourage children to talk about how the belongings are used and enjoyed.
Give children the choice to share or be generous: “Forced” sharing and generosity can build an atmosphere of resentment. When forced to share, it is less likely that children will offer kindness on their own.
Remember that children’s attitudes often reflect the teachings of their parents.

Put It in Writing

For older children, the Chicago Public Schools system suggests asking the following questions and having them respond by writing in a journal:

How do you show kindness?
What is the kindest thing you have ever done?
What was the kindest thing that someone did for you?
In what ways or in which aspects of your life would you like people to treat you with more kindness?
What could you do to become a kinder person?
How do you show generosity?
What was the most generous act that someone did for you?
How are people generous in ways that do not involve money?
What do you do to help others?
In what important ways do other people help you?

Chicago Public Schools
Josephson Institute of Ethics
National Center for Policy Analysis
National Network for Child Care