“No Act of Kindness, However Small, Is Ever Wasted” – Aesop
I’m bored! There’s nothing to do! This sucks! If these complaints are getting old, I have an idea that can help put them to rest: Help your teen turn their focus from what they’re NOT getting to what they can be GIVING. There are more people than ever in need of help and kindness. Why not get your family involved in some virtual volunteering?
Virtual volunteer opportunities
Not only will volunteering help conquer your teen’s boredom and sense of helplessness, it also will help hardwire their brain with skills and behaviors essential for life success and happiness: compassion, generosity, empathy, and commitment. They will also learn that even they can make a real difference in the world—and have fun doing it! There are several teenagers and young adults in my community that are already making a huge difference with their outreach efforts.
Wim Tapley, a high school junior, is deeply immersed in community outreach programs. “There are several ways teens can help,” Wim explains. “I would start by encouraging them to call their older or immunocompromised relatives or friends. Checking in on them could mean a great deal for someone who’s self-isolating. There are also services like our Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers that facilitate phone check-ins for senior citizens.”
If you don’t want to call, send a card, a picture, a care package of pre-packaged goodies. Hospital patients are also experiencing extreme loneliness and would benefit from a thoughtful gift. The effort to do this is minimal, but the joy it would bring others is immense.
Bre Roeder, a senior in high school, is part of the Chalk Project. “It was great to get out of my own quarantine bubble and create a little happiness for someone else on their day. Something as small as writing a happy birthday note for someone in chalk on their driveway not only made them smile, but also made me feel really good about thinking of others. We’re all essentially in the same boat right now so I think doing these little acts of kindness really helps to keep us connected as a community.”
Another young woman making a big impact is Tori Truesdale. She’s actively involved in several local outreach programs like our community’s Coronavirus Outreach team. She says that teenagers are key to getting the word out, “They can use their Instagram and Facebook as fundraising platforms for local nonprofits like food pantries.”
Wim agreed, “A lot of us are on social media a bunch during this quarantine, so it doesn’t hurt to keep your eyes open and like, share, or comment on pages or accounts that are helping others. I’m telling my friends who are stuck inside that even if they can’t volunteer, they can help by sharing pages of legitimate organizations.”
The people on the front lines can really use a morale boost as well. Jamie Ulrich, a nurse, encourages teens to “make cards or gifts for the staff who are in the hospital to help cheer them up. You can also make signs and give flowers to the staff who are coming into or going out of the hospital to show your support. Most people change shifts around 7am and 7pm.” In addition to healthcare professionals, there are many other people out there diligently serving us–police officers, firefighters, grocery store workers–that would also appreciate inspirational signs, packaged goodies, and cups of coffee!
Maggie Stewart-Fritz, a registered nurse living with a vulnerable person, emphasizes that “the key is wiping everything off with Clorox or Lysol wipes before dropping them off.”
There are also plenty of things you can do without leaving the house. My 14-year-old daughter, Alexa, and I have been taking turns reading children’s books for a virtual storytelling program started by Her Handshake. Alexa reflects on her experience, “I think it’s a great opportunity to read to kids because it’s something fun for me to do and something fun for them to do. And I feel like I’ve really grown because it’s teaching me how to present in front of people. I’m getting a lot better.” And the kids always want her to read “one more,” so clearly she is.
Lauren Combs, a freshman in college, has been forced to live at home. Instead of getting upset, she has chosen to make the most of the situation. “I am typically very involved with serving out in the community, but because social distancing has become a vital part of maintaining the community’s health, I have decided to get creative with ways to volunteer within my own home.
I try to serve my parents by being mindful of chores around the house and spending quality time with them each night. I also try to help my little sister by spending quality time with her…We’ve been given a gift to reprioritize our immediate family, even if it’s being forced upon us. I think that’s something we shouldn’t take for granted.”
It’s clear that one of the biggest things you can do is simply be kind and show gratitude!
10 more volunteer opportunities for teens
- Clean out your closets. Use this free time to declutter your space. Pull out all clothes, toys, games, books, etc. that you no longer use. If they’re in good shape, gather them together and donate them to organizations like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Habitat for Humanity.
- Share your talents. Do you sing? Play the guitar? Dance? Take amazing photos? Burp the alphabet? Jump online and offer some free lessons to other bored kids stuck at home. You can also put on a virtual concert to entertain your family, friends, and other people stuck in isolation and needing a break from Netflix.
- Donate your skills. Are you artistic? Can you build a website? Edit videos? Write? There are many organizations and charities that could use your help to get their message out. Reach out to them and let them know what you can offer or post on Facebook community groups.
- Make teddy bears for children in need. Knit or crochet teddy bears or stuff pre-sewn teddy bears to donate to hospitals, police stations, fire stations, or charity organizations such as teddies for tragedies.
- Make blankets for people (and animals) in need. Blankets are a source of comfort and warmth and greatly needed for homeless families, sick children and animals in shelters. You can do this through organizations like Project Linus, Binky Patrol and Cage comforter.
- Become a virtual tutor. Now that everyone’s stuck at home, kids may be depending on their parents to help them with their homework—and it’s been years since many of us parents have had to solve a quadratic equation, list the capitals of all 50 states, or speak conversational French. If you’re really good at a subject, offer to tutor kids through Zoom or FaceTime.
- Fight cyberbulling. More kids than ever are depending on social media for social interaction, which makes cyberbullying even more likely. Help keep kids safe online by joining organizations like Tweenangels or Teenangels. Or just do your part to stop bullying rather than perpetuating it.
- Start a petition. Take on a local issue by starting a petition through www.change.org. I just signed one a high school senior started to have a LIVE graduation ceremony after things settle down. I know how disappointed these kids are about missing out on so many momentous life experiences like prom and graduation, so I think it’s a worthy cause.
- Write your local officials. We have Representatives, Senators, and a Governor whose jobs are to represent their constituents–that’s us. So, write your elected officials about what they can do to help during this time. Some ideas are getting appropriate N95 masks for healthcare professionals, securing more ventilators for hospitals, giving financial aid to people that have lost their jobs and businesses, or putting rent and mortgage payments on hold.You can send your letter to them online here.
- Write a letter to the president of the United States. Why not just take it to the top? Your voice could be the key to getting legislation passed that will serve others and even our country as a whole. You can send him an email here or a letter here.
- All For Good: http://www.allforgood.org/about
- Peers and Students Taking Action: https://wearepasta.org
- Serve.gov: http://www.serve.gov
- VolunTEEN Nation: http://www.volunteennation.org
Volunteer Family: http://www.volunteerfamily.org
- VolunteerMatch.org: http://www.volunteermatch.org
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Cameron (Dr. Cam) Caswell, PhD is a developmental psychologist, family coach, teen expert, certified professional success coach (CPSC), author, and inspirational speaker. She is on a mission to help parents build strong, positive relationships with their teens through improved communication, connection, and understanding. Dr. Cam is a mom of a teen too, so she not only talks the talk, she walks the walk!