Summer is here.
If you have a teen around the house and you’re looking to keep them busy doing something productive until school starts, don’t worry. We have a great idea that might be the perfect solution.
We realize we’re nearing the midpoint of summer – let’s call it July 4th – and it’s a little late to make plans. But sometimes plans change. And let’s face it: sometimes the plans you make don’t turn out the way you want them to. Sometimes they turn out to be the wrong plan altogether. Take this summer, for instance: you may have thought an unsupervised summer with plenty of downtime was exactly what your teen needed this summer.
But now that you’re living with that decision, you realize that it wasn’t the best option.
Your teen is at loose ends, and you’re worried: with all this time on their hands, they may find their way to trouble. Or trouble may find its way to them.
Either way, you need to make a change. You need to get your teen out of the house. Here’s that great idea we teased you with a moment ago: your teenager can find a cause they believe in and volunteer their time to support it.
How to Find Places to Volunteer
We website PrepScholar that breaks down volunteer opportunities for teens into six main types:
- People in Need. This is a broad area where there are lots of chances for teens to put their energy to positive use. Local food banks, homeless shelters, nursing homes, and senior centers are a good place to start. Next, check out Habitat for Humanity and the American Red Cross Youth.
- Education and Literacy. Teens can tutor younger kids or teach adults to read for the first time. They can also help adults new to the U.S. learn English. The best place to start is your local library. After looking there, check with School on Wheels and 826 National.
- Animals. Teens who love animals can find places to put all that love to good use. In fact, most animal shelters, animal sanctuaries, and zoos have volunteer programs. Animal shelters typically have a minimum volunteer age of 16. Zoos typically have a minimum volunteer age of 14. Once you look for things in your area, consult Paws and The Humane Society of the United States.
- The Environment. The simplest, fastest way to find volunteer opportunities related to the environment is to sign up for local clean-up days. Depending on where you live, your teen can put their name in the hat to clean up local beaches, parks, forests, creeks, and streams. One good thing about clean-up work is there is almost never any training to do and no long-term commitment necessary: volunteers simply sign up for a day, show up, and work.
- Hospitals. For teens interested in any of the healing arts or professions, volunteering in a hospital is an ideal way to test the waters. Most hospitals require volunteers to be at least 16 years old, and due to liability issues, the jobs minors can do are limited. However, the jobs themselves are not minor: helping nurses and doctors, visiting the elderly, cheering up the young – those are all important things can make a major difference in the lives of the people they touch. In order to find hospital and healthcare-related volunteer opportunities for your teen, start with Red Cross Youth.
- Museums. Teenagers interested in art or history – or both – should consider volunteering at a museum. And tech/computer teens need not worry – there are science and technology museums out there as well. Museum volunteers get to do some fun things: they may run workshops for visitors, educate them about exhibits, lead workshops, or teach in youth outreach programs. Also, according to this article, volunteering for a museum is the best way to get a job in one. If volunteering in a museum sounds like a good fit for your teen, visit The American Association for Museum Volunteers to find out more.
Make the Best of The Rest
You may be reading this article because summer has gotten off to a rocky start for your teen. Or, they may be on the verge of boredom – having binged every possible age-appropriate show online – and you want to prevent what happens when the boredom sets in. Either way, depending on your location, you have anywhere from one to two months to fill before school starts back. You and your teen can find productive ways to spend this time. You can make the most out of the rest of the summer. It’s not too late to come up with a new plan. And if you think your teen might use their free time to get in trouble, it’s definitely not too late. It’s exactly the right time.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.