Wondering how to make a difference in the world as a teenager?
When I think about life skills for teens, the practical ones (like laundry and cooking) are some of the first things that come to mind. But there are a ton of other life skills I am teaching my kids, those that relate to the qualities I want them to have, the types of people I hope they become. One major characteristic my husband and I have been trying to instill in the girls since they were little is the idea of giving to others – both time and money.
The middle school years are the perfect time to encourage children to think outside of themselves and give back. To make a meaningful difference.
Now that our kids are older, there are more opportunities for them to donate their time to support a cause they believe in. In fact, most teens that I know, can’t wait to volunteer. It’s our job to help them find a place that will accept them (based on the hours they are available and their age) that matches their passion.
Even if they’re still not old enough to volunteer in person, there are still many ways that kids can support a cause. One way is for them to donate money. If your child is used to holding back a portion of any money they make or receive (from a job, birthday, a business they own, chores/commissions/allowance, etc.) to give to charity, encourage them to use it to directly support something they feel strongly about.
Many teens enjoy giving to a cause, especially when they know what project they’re supporting.
For example, both of my girls consistently put aside 10% of their money. Abigail has been saving hers and this Christmas she will have enough to send a girl to school for a year. Marianna is using hers to purchase cat and dog food to donate to our church’s food pantry.
Often, charities need more than money and your time. Find out if the organization your teen wants to support has any additional requests. A place near us that supports families living in hotels ran a crock pot drive one year, so the families would have a way to cook. Throughout the year, our family donates toys, school supplies, and toiletries to various organizations.
How to Make a Difference in the World as a Teenager
Here are some ideas to get you and your kids brainstorming causes to support and ways to help them. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a way to get the thought process started.
- Consider supporting ASPCA or your local no-kill shelter.
- Collect food, toys, blankets, and towels to donate. Your teen can even use their t-shirts to make unique pet pillows that they can give to homeless pets. Just like all charities, those supporting animals are stretched thin. You can really help them out (and the animals too), by donating items the animals can use and would enjoy.
- Start a campaign encouraging owners to spay/neuter their pets.
- Volunteer at your local zoo.
Helping Children Overseas
- World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization that has been around for 60 years. They work in 100 countries, supporting children and families. This is one of the organizations where you can “adopt” a child to support over the years. You can also help by shopping from their gift catalog and send a child to school, help a woman start a business or purchase handcrafted gifts.
- Heifer International has been supporting families across the world for 70 years. The most popular way to support them is to purchase farm animals through their gift catalog to send to needy families overseas. Who knew the gift of chickens could change a family’s life?! Although many people donate around the holidays, you can send the gift of animals any time throughout the year.
- Sponsor a Well. Access to clean water is not a reality for many families. Dirty water contributes to sickness and even death. When organizations are able to provide a village with clean water and sanitation education, they can make a radical impact for those living there for generations to come.
Helping the Environment
- Plant a tree.
- Help clean up a local waterway. If you’re near a coast, take part in a beach clean-up.
- Pick up trash in your neighborhood.
Helping the Poor and Homeless
- Sign up as a family to ring bells for the Salvation Army. My husband and I did this years ago with some friends and had a lot of fun.
- Volunteer in a food bank or soup kitchen. Does your home church, synagogue, mosque, etc. directly support the homeless or poor? If so, that’s a great place to help. The girls and I spend our time in our church’s food bank by filling the bags when people come in and taking them out to their car. Also, see if your neighborhood has a family shelter that provides meals. In our area, if you want to volunteer with kids, it’s easier (and less intimidating) to make and serve a meal at the women and children’s shelter than the one for the men.
- Kids love toys, so encourage yours to purchase one to donate to Toys for Tots.
Helping your Neighbors
- Babysit for free to help out a young couple.
- Take a meal to an elderly neighbor.
- Rake leaves or shovel snow for someone.
Start now by helping your teen find a cause they’re passionate about so they can look for ways to give back all year long.
More Life Skills for Teens
- Brainstorming Tips & Tools for Middle School Students
- Etiquette is an Important Life Skill to Focus on for Teens
- Teaching Teens Life Skills – No Curriculum Required
What is your teen’s favorite way to give to others?
Although we should be encouraging our older kids to give back to others all year long, charity is definitely a big part of the holiday season. Speaking of the holidays, I hope you have enjoyed discovering some of the simple ways you and your teen can make this an awesome Christmas season.
I would love to know what you and your teen are up to this holiday season. Share your photos and tag me on Instagram or share your ideas in the Facebook group.