Sue Scheff: Encouraging Troubled Teens to Give Back


Some teens that are struggling today, making not so good choices and simply going down a negative road can stem from feelings of low self worth. Building a teen back up to make better choices can start by encouraging them to get involved in helping others.

In many instances teens will gravitate to animals such as dogs or cats. Contact and visit your local Humane Society. Learn how your teen can get involved in helping animals. Contact your local Food Pantry, Assisted Living Homes or Nursing Homes, find out if they are in need of volunteers. Helping others inspires teens to feel good about themselves and the satisfaction that they are making a difference in lives can change their life.

Recently Connect With Kids reported about how troubled teens volunteering is spreading and how the change is growing through many at risk teens:

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.

Go back and read about how you can help your teen make a difference.

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