While you might despair at ever getting your teen to clean up his room, he might be willing to volunteer to help others, particular those in your own neighborhood or community. For teens in scouts or a church youth group, performing community service might be the norm, but teens who are not members of an official organization can do something to help. Even a teen who says he's not interested in any kind of community activity might end up feeling better about himself. He might feel like by participating in a service project, as part of a group effort.
Get your teen involved with community food or clothing drives. Your teen can go door-to-door and gather donations from neighbors. Encourage him to help set up collection sites or creating posters that publicize the clothing drive. With school authorities' permission, your teen, along with others, can set up collection boxes they've decorated. In fact, they can make this a school-wide effort by running competitions among classes or sports teams to see which group can bring in the most canned goods for the food pantry, for example.
Work with town officials or the parks department to identify a public area that needs sprucing up. Teen organizers can ask the local hardware store to donate work gloves or trash bags, or request bottled water donations from a local restaurant. Pass out supplies and break up into teams, with each team assigned to clear out a specific area. With some supervision and the appropriate tools, teens can clear brush from neighborhood parks, trash from city streets, or plant flowers at the local senior center. They might also enjoy painting bleachers at the ball field or planting trees at a new park.
Teens who enjoy participating in sports can organize a charity 5K run or a similar event to raise money to fill a community need. Identify the focus of the effort, such as purchasing new benches or an item of playground equipment for the city park. Publicize the goal and the event with posters around town, handing out fliers and putting an announcement in the local newspaper. Ask local businesses for donations and encourage citizens to sponsor event participants. Work with community leaders to ensure everything goes smoothly on event day, and then invite townspeople to an "unveiling" ceremony when the new benches or new playground equipment is unveiled.
Whether your teen prefers to work on his own or with a group of his peers, encourage him to look for a way to help someone else. A teen on his own can volunteer to read to preschoolers at the library, run errands for a bed-ridden neighbor or mow the grass at his church. With a group of friends, your teen can serve meals at a soup kitchen, put on a bicycle safety clinic for younger kids or collect, wrap and distribute toys to needy families at Christmas.
- Kid Activities: Community Service
- Denver DHH Track and Field Day: Community Service Projects
- DoSomething.org: Projects
- The Teenager's Guide to the Real World: 20 Ways for Teenagers to Help Other People by Volunteering
- Radical Parenting: Teen Community Service Ideas: How to Get Teens More Involved in Charity and Community Service Projects
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