Summer is just around the corner and students are ready to escape from the tedium of school. Summer vacation is a great time for kids to take a break from homework and grades, but it’s an even better time to engage in a different kind of learning – service learning! Volunteering has countless benefits for kids and teens. It helps develop important skills, including critical thinking, organizing, and collaboration and increases self-confidence. Teens learn to critically think about the world around them through hands-on work that benefits others. Volunteer jobs can even lead to future careers!
However not all volunteer jobs are created equal and finding the best summer experiences for teens can be challenging. Now is the time to start discussing how your teen will spend a part of his or her summer! Read more for six tips on how to help your child or teen get the most from their summer volunteer experiences.
- What do service & learning mean? Sure, volunteering looks good on a college application, but it is not just about the ability to put another experience on a college resume. Help build character strengths in your children by discussing service as something that bring deeper meaning to your lives. When kids do community service only as a route to college admission, they miss out on the deeper meaning of service.
- Explore your teen’s interests. It is important for children to choose their own activities, based on their own interests. Let go of what you think your child should do and help facilitate a conversation that links your child’s interests to possible jobs in your community. Kids have a much greater capacity to develop purpose and initiative when they choose for themselves.
- Research jobs. Once you’ve determined your son or daughter’s interests, help them begin to research opportunities; older children and teens can do this for themselves. Use the internet and personal networking to find organizations in your community. Check out the websites GenerationOn, All For Good, VolunteerSpot, and HandsOn Network. Learn about what’s possible and what generates excitement for your child.
- Don’t forget to commit. It is important for your teenager to learn that all jobs come with commitments, including volunteer positions. Talk about how much time they will spend and in what ways they will discuss and reflect on their experiences with parents or other adults. Encourage teens to solicit feedback conversations with employers. Oftentimes supervisors are more than happy to take time to review a student’s performance and help them learn new skills.
- Be interested. As your child volunteers, they are growing and learning in many ways. Find out how by asking open-ended questions about their day. Asking questions like, “Tell me about…,” “How did that impact you?” or “How did you handle that situation?” will help you engage in meaningful conversation.
Service can encompass a variety of volunteer jobs, including visiting elderly people, tutoring children, raising money for nonprofit organizations, working in community gardens, cleaning up public spaces, monitoring environmental sites, creating websites, and working in food banks. So get involved and volunteer over summer vacation!