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Lessons from Linda
Teens and Volunteerism

I can't remember the first time I heard the phrase "God helps those that help themselves". My feeling is, sometimes we all just need a little push.

So last summer, I pushed my teenage daughters, who would normally tell me "there's nothing to do!" to sign up and volunteer at Hospice of the Western Reserve. They were hesitant at first, typical teens that don't really want to do it but once they jumped in, they found they really enjoy it.

There is a teen volunteer program that includes an orientation with other kids their age. They attended orientation and learned about the volunteer opportunities at the facility. They were given volunteer pins, name badges and volunteer instruction manuals.

About a week or so after orientation, they received a call from the teen volunteer coordinator and asked if they could help out at social gathering where there would be assisting young children. So they helped out and met another teen that they really enjoyed spending time with.

They came home feeling good about themselves and met new friends. This opportunity is something all teens should consider. Not only is it a great contribution to the community, but it comforts hospice families too.

Volunteerism is a great way to give to others and gain something in return: confidence and increased self esteem. These traits are extremely important for teens, especially teenage girls.

In today's media environment, unless you wear size 0, you're fat. Television, magazines and the internet all boast images of what teens think they should look like - when in reality, what they are looking at is NOT at all typical of the average teen in America. Parents need to stress this, no matter how difficult it is to get the teens to listen.

Volunteering is also a great way to introduce teens to careers. They are exposed to situations and experiences that may help them decide their future. My oldest daughter is a senior in high school (yikes!). She doesn't truly have a grasp on what she would like to do.

She definitely wants to go to college, and we will be making trips to colleges in the next months so she can tour them and get a better idea of what college life is like. Meeting new friends and talking to people at Hospice will help her gain confidence in her decision making.

I just came across a website where you can take your whole family to Costa Rica on a Volunteer Tour program. It's a combined vacation and volunteer opportunity. You stay with a host family, volunteer time to help those less fortunate and see the sights in Costa Rica. It's not free but it sounds like a great trip.

In any case, volunteering is an important activity for teens. They can volunteer in any number of situations. Many high schools require community service hours in graduation requirements. Food banks and hunger centers are always in need of volunteers. And as always during the holidays, there are churches that need volunteers to help feed the poor.

Whatever they chose to do, it will give them a sense of pride and increase their levels of confidence. It also provides a venue for meeting and communicating with other individuals they may not typically meet.

Volunteering is a great way to for teens to increase their independence. It provides a place where they can learn new skills and gain a sense of empowerment.

See some local volunteer opportunities for Cleveland Women and Girls

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