Empowering Kids to Contribute

By: Gene Roehlkepartain, Guest Blogger

Everyone needs to feel like he or she has something to contribute. Teens who take on responsibilities, have useful roles, and serve others are more likely to grow up with a sense of purpose and concern for others. They are also more likely to develop the skills and attitudes to take on new responsibilities. Here are some ideas to help you empower your teen to contribute.

  • Reflect on how you do or don’t encourage your teen to take responsibility and serve others. Are you sometimes so busy that you “just do it yourself” and don’t give teens appropriate roles and responsibilities?
  • Share family responsibilities. Have a family meeting to get everyone’s ideas on accomplishing household tasks. Share the decisions then share the work.
  • Ask your teen to teach you something new. It could be something being learned in school, something related to technology or sports, or a video game that your teen loves. (Then you can play it together.)
  • Use home projects as learning projects. Whether you’re planning a family reunion, doing home repair projects, or just catching up on chores, have your teen help and learn. (Knowing how to do laundry will be really helpful after leaving home!)
  • Follow your teen’s lead. Teens often are the ones who recognize problems and want to take action. If teens raise issues or concerns, encourage them to dig deeper, learn more, and suggest ways your family can respond.
  • Take action together. Serving together as a family is a powerful way to demonstrate service to others. If there are specific social issues that matter to your family, set aside time regularly to help address the issues through a service project or another kind of social action. Reflect on your experiences afterward, noting how you’ve grown, what you’ve learned, and what you want to do next.
  • Talk while serving. Some of the most productive time to talk with a teen is during those times when you are both focused on helping others. Working at a food bank, picking up trash, stuffing envelopes, or raking leaves are excellent opportunities to build relationships and talk.
  • More Tools and Resources

  • Learn more about opportunities for and the benefits of serving others from the Corporation for National and Community Service.
  • United We Serve is a federal initiative to encourage people across the nation to launch service projects.
  • Find ideas for getting your family more involved in serving others at the following links:
  • Volunteering
  • The Family Volunteer
  • Doing Good Together
  • Eugene C. Roehlkepartain is Vice President of Research and Development at Search Institute, and creator of the 9 Parenting Strategies. Roehlkepartain is widely recognized as an expert in child, youth, and family development in community contexts. Particular areas of interest include family strengths, community supports for families and youth, spiritual development, service-learning, youth philanthropy, and linking youth development with financial literacy. Join Gene for a free webinar about the 9 Parenting Strategies presented by ParentFurther on Wednesday, January 30 at 12PM, CST. Learn more >>

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