How I’m Helping Almost Grown Children Find Ways to Give Back

With my three kids being over 17, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to encourage them to become involved in our community. As teenagers and young adults, they’re becoming their own people, with their own interests, and oftentimes they’re much more focused on themselves than on helping other people. I’ll admit it. They are a little less socially conscious than I would like. At least 2 out of the 3 are.

It’s important to me that they learn to look outside of themselves and get involved somehow. To me, giving back is part of being part of this world. It has nothing to do with money or privilege, but rather knowing that you’re just a small piece of something greater. Some people have a natural inclination to give of themselves and others need to be encouraged to see the personal benefits of being altruistic. There is something gratifying about doing something for someone else with no expectation of receiving anything in return. I want my kids to feel that. And more importantly, to understand that their contribution doesn’t have to be monetary, either. Sure, dropping a few dollars in a box or writing a cheque is a good way

I think my job at this point is to help them to find organizations or causes that spark their interest or speak to them on a personal level. Maybe these are choices that they can get involved with long-term as they begin their adult lives.

Teaching Teenagers to Give Back - Austen Berlet Campout for Mental HealthMy middle son has already begun to explore where he might want to devote his community service hours. He joined a fraternity at university that is heavily involved with a variety of charities and chose to chair the Austen Berlet Campout, an annual 24 hour event that is run in conjunction with Phi Gamma Delta and the Canadian Mental Health Association. As both a student and a neuroscience major, providing services to students in a mental health crisis spoke to him on a very personal level.

So, what about the other two is the question I ask myself. How can I guide them to a similar place where they can serve their community with open hearts?

Here are some of my ideas.

Teaching Teenagers to Give Back - Skylar Shapiro Makeup ArtistMy daughter, a professional makeup artist, can explore places where she can provide services to those who need them. I’ve pointed her in the direction of the Corsage Project, an annual event that offers prom dresses, hair and makeup to young women in need. She could also connect with Dress for Success or Look Good Feel Better.

My youngest is a tougher one. He really knows his own mind and likes to think everything he does was his idea and his decision. I suggested to him that he volunteer at retirement residences, giving computer lessons, but he didn’t show a ton of enthusiasm. But then he surprised me when he joined the Hack Lab, a non-profit collective in Toronto where he can learn and develop his interests and skills plus find lots of opportunities to volunteer. While it’s not what you might imagine when you think of giving back, he is serving his own community, and so I think he’s on the right track. 

When talking to your kids about volunteering or helping out in their community, I truly believe it’s important to have an open mind and help them to find where their heart is. No matter where they are in life, it’s never too late to learn how good it feels to be part of something greater and to help someone else. No contribution is too small.

How do you encourage your family to be socially conscious? Do you let your kids guide the way or do you participate as a team? I’d love to know (and maybe get some tips from you!)

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