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Giving back: Holiday charity projects for teens

School is out and the holidays are in full gear. Your teen may have visions of being lazy dancing in his head, but isn’t there something more productive he could do?

The holidays are a time when local agencies can use an extra set of hands, and many are more than happy to have teens help out. Who can you help in your area?

Teens often have a lot of time on their hands over the holiday break from school. Catching up on sleep is great, but what about a meaningful volunteer opportunity? Teens are capable of doing so many things, yet we often forget about involving them in volunteer work. Not only are these opportunities great to have on their list of skills, but they give your teen a big confidence boost.

Feed someone

It may seem like the traditional recommendation for volunteering, but there’s a big need. From those who simply don’t have enough money to put food on their tables to those who don’t even own a table, people in your community are hungry. Local churches often provide sit-down meals for holidays and can always use a few extra hands. Your teen can also check with local food banks, which hand out bags of food or deliver them year-round. Food banks have a need for people to package the food, unload deliveries, make phone calls and even deliver bags.

Helping others who aren’t as fortunate as your teen is a valuable lesson in compassion and gratitude. Something as simple as the food on his plate is often taken for granted. Teens can seem self-centered and overly self-involved, but engage a teen in an activity where he is valued and making a difference and you will be amazed.

Lend a hand

Sometimes volunteering is needed in the most unexpected places. Maybe you have an elderly neighbor who could use help clearing away leaves or organizing the garage. Helping neighbors doesn’t have the recognition of a larger scale volunteer opportunity, but your teen can make a big difference in someone’s life. Making these connections with people he already knows can show him a sense of community he may have missed before.

Does your church, school or community sponsor any special holiday events like parades or concerts? Teens love to volunteer for these events because many times they have attended them as a younger child. Being involved behind the scenes makes this gig extra hip.

Make volunteering cool

Volunteering doesn’t have to be all about helping old ladies and handing out food. Teens today are more involved in the big picture of our planet than possibly any generation prior. They think big thoughts, have some big ideas and often wonder how just one person can make a difference. Is your teen interested in the environment? Maybe she wonders how to help other teens in town that are homeless or going through tough times. Check out, a great site for teens who are looking for ways to make a difference in lots of different categories. According to their site, they “harness that awesome energy and unleash it on causes teens care about.” They launch a new national campaign almost every week, and teens can follow them on Facebook or add an app to their phone to follow the latest campaigns.

Set the example

Teens are more likely to volunteer for a cause or an event if they see their parents doing volunteer work too. It doesn’t have to be a big commitment, but find a cause that’s important to you this holiday season and give a bit of your time — or volunteer as a family. Start your teen on the right foot to give back during the holidays.

More on parenting teens

How to engage today’s teens and help them mature
Teens and the consequences of social media
Help your teen get the most out of school

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