Volunteering opportunities for teens

Aug 17, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. ET

Most teens must complete community service requirements for graduation and school organizations. Help your child find meaningful volunteering opportunities that inspire a lifetime of giving back to the community.

Volunteering can feel like a chore to teenagers if they’re busy with school, jobs and preparing for college. When teens connect emotionally with community service, it fosters a lifelong commitment to giving back. Help your teen find a rewarding service opportunity.

If your teen thrives in social situations

Encourage your teen to join a service organization such as Interact. In service organizations and clubs, a sense of camaraderie helps young people embrace the spirit of giving back to the community. Service organizations often provide teens with a variety of ways to volunteer. These activities satisfy community service requirements, while the club participation looks great on college applications. If your teen shows leadership qualities, encourage her to take on leadership roles in the service organization.

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If your teen loves animals

Local animal shelters, animal hospitals and rescue organizations are always in need of volunteer help. Many animal rescue organizations also need teens to help staff fundraising events. Not every organization allows volunteers under 18. Help your teen research volunteer opportunities. See if his school has a program to help connect students with local organizations. If your teen shows interest in biology and medicine, animal shelters and clinics are a great way to get a beginning look at veterinary science. Even if your teen can’t volunteer directly with the animals, encourage him to organize a collection of linens and towels, which are always in short supply at shelters.

If your teen is nurturing

Hospitals and nursing homes often seek young volunteers with energy and vibrance. Elderly patients and residents may be short on visitors and good cheer. Young volunteers can contribute through fun performances, by reading out loud and even by cleaning and working in kitchens. Some nursing homes seek young volunteers for tasks as simple as sitting and chatting with residents. Look into hospitals and retirement facilities with partnerships with your family’s place of worship or through your teen’s school. Alternately, if your teen is over 18, he may be able to volunteer as a camp counselor for young people. Your teen can also contribute by helping collect entertainment items for patients, such as toys, DVDs and paperback books.

If your teen cares about the environment

Does your teen encourage your family to recycle and practice eco-friendly habits at home? Help her find opportunities to work with the local environment. Parks, bodies of water and roadsides are often in need of volunteers for clean-up and maintenance. Wildlife preserves and gardens also operate on a volunteer basis. Consider participating in volunteer work with your teen by attending a cleanup or helping organize one as a parent chaperone. Foster a sense of responsibility in your teen by modeling good habits, such as picking up litter and supporting local non-profits.

Learn how to get your kids off the couch and involved in charity work >>

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