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3 Ideas For Helping Your Teen Serve Others This Summer

A friend of mine started a Facebook group this summer to help parents find fun things to do for their kids. Almost every day different moms put up great ideas to keep children engaged and learning through the hot, stale months at hand.

The trouble, of course, is that my children are too old for almost every free offering anyone shares.

I remember those days of library crafts, splash parks and cool ideas around town. Unfortunately they ended for me about three years ago. Childhood ends in the “free stuff to do” world at about 10-years-of-age.

It’s ironic because just around the time you don’t want your child attached to a television or gaming system for 15 hours a day, you have to be creative to find ways to get them off the couch. I have a beach option and you might have a public pool, but here we are, halfway through the summer, and those options are already old.

I think the hardest age to get your kids moving and doing in the summer are between 11-15-years-old. I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford those expensive places like trampoline parks or amusement areas without a Groupon. And then when we do go, they lose their luster after the first visit.

Many options for our kids this age last for a week, a day, or an evening. But what about all the other times?

So what IS the answer to occupying early adolescent kids in the summer?

I have found that one helpful thing is to get them serving. Yes, they will complain (at least mine did). However, with a little prod and effort on our part, it might be less complicated than you realize.

Here’s what you do:

3 Ideas For Helping Your Teen Serve Others This Summer

Idea #1: Start Small

Start with talking about serving and being a servant in general. Service isn’t an event--it’s a lifestyle.

What are some small things your kids can do for your neighbors once a week? Could they bake cookies, sit with an elderly friend, mow a lawn, or just plain think about those in their own back yard? Could they be kindness ninjas who do something small and kind for their neighbors without them knowing the culprits?

These ages are great for asking kids to plan and figure it out. Instead of all of the ideas being yours, get buy-in. You may have to say, “Once a week we are going to do something for our neighbors. You tell me what we will do.” Then go from there on their lead.

Idea #2: Plan A Day Out

Put a few days on the calendar when you are going to go out and bless people around town with random acts of kindness. It doesn’t have to be for long periods of time or even in a way that spends money. For example, you can buy someone a cup of coffee or a dozen donuts and give them out to people entering a store. Or, what about taking an hour and returning all of the carts into a grocery store from the parking lot? What can you all do that’s creative, fun and giving?

Idea #3: Get Them Involved

Ask your kids what places or organizations they would like to volunteer at once or twice a week. Some places may have age requirements, but many times nursing homes are just looking for some friendly faces who might sit and chat for awhile. Day camps may be looking for an extra hand to help out.

If you can’t get them out and about, ask them to pick a cause they care about. Have them organize a fundraiser with all money going to their passion. Could they put up a lemonade stand, car wash, or make a bracelet for sale in honor of clean drinking water, saving pandas, or cancer research? Go a little deeper with them and let them know you are both invested in helping others in some small way.

Remember This When They Resist (Because They Will)

If you’re thinking, "Yeah right—my kids won’t do any of this," take heart. When they resist, it helps to remember that kids this age act more apathetic than they actually are. It’s more their deep sense of insecurity that keeps them inside their comfort zones, afraid to venture out, than an unwillingness to serve others. Help them to know that caring for others may feel awkward sometimes but it’s a worthwhile life practice for all of us.

What are your late summer ideas for keeping kids busy and/or getting them out of the house?

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