Citizenship & Community

Citizenship & Community

Citizenship.  For some, the word invokes images of Boy Scouts saying the pledge of allegiance or students volunteering at the library.   Most of us would define the word by a reference to service of some kind.  Many of us older adults mourn the loss of citizenship among our students.   Many think of citizenship as a product of a bygone era, no longer possible or practical among our digital generation of teens.

My son has been learning about citizenship in his martial arts class.  In each class, there is a simple lesson geared toward the 3 to 5 year-old students about picking up trash, saying hi to a new student in class, helping an elderly person who lives in your neighborhood, opening doors for others, etc.

As I listened to his instructor, I realized that while the stated character trait was citizenship, it was ultimately about community:  Who do you know? Who can you serve? Who do you need to add to your community?

Our youth need community as much as ever.  Too often, we get caught up in thinking that adolescence is about moving away from the family and friends a child has always known. In reality, adolescence is about forming identity within your own developing community – a new community that both includes and extends beyond the community you grew up knowing.  As adults working with teens, do we point our youth in the direction of where they could find community and a place to serve with their newly developing identities and gifts?

I have found that service, or citizenship, becomes a natural and organic outgrowth of people who have a place to belong.

A few ideas to help guide your teens as they seek to develop their own community:

  1. Create a community of adults that your child can talk to or spend time around. They can be all different ages and life stages, but they need to be a safe place where they are welcome, and loved, and can receive help and advice.
  2. Help youth identify their passion. Tell them what they are good at. Tell them what you see in them.  Encourage them to try out art, or music, or sports, or writing until they find their niche.
  3. Help teens find a place to serve. What are his/her interests? What do they want to explore? Who do they want to be around more? This could be in the context of a local non-profit or serving at a church. It could be a club/community group geared toward their interest. Community is built through service.
  4. Develop relationships with people from various cultures, religious backgrounds, and political belief systems. This allows the teens in your life to see that different people with different life experiences can all be at the same table.

 

Like with adults, community in adolescence doesn’t happen naturally. It takes work and showing up – something we as adults still need help our students with each day. But the benefits are worth it.  Youth who are plugged into a community, and who are serving there, have more opportunities to become successful, do better in school, and are more likely to believe that someone will be there for them if they need it.

Citizenship and Community are intertwined. How can you help the teen in your life find their place to live and serve?

Beth Nichols is Teen Life’s Program Director. With her background in social work and experience as a mom of 4, her perspective is invaluable.

Promoting Thankfulness

Promoting Thankfulness

November is one of the only times of year that is set aside for everyone to be thankful.

We are thankful for food, family, and football.

But especially right now, many people seem to be struggling with thankfulness. Maybe they aren’t thankful for our President Elect, their job situation, the fact that Texas doesn’t have a real Fall…the list could go on and on. But teenagers and our kids are watching us! If we aren’t thankful, why should they be?

This holiday season, let’s be intentional about our thankfulness. Maybe this year, we need to step up our game and make it more than a just a Thanksgiving Day deal. Being thankful can be an everyday thing! In fact, there are several ways that thankfulness and gratitude can positively affect your quality of life!

Here are a few ideas to promote thankfulness in your family and make it special for teenagers this holiday season:

 

Include them in the Thanksgiving preparations.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that takes a lot of hard work, cooking and preparation. When you’re a little kid, it’s awesome because you get to sleep in, watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and be served food followed by pie. However, it is time for us to get our children, and especially teenagers, involved in the day.

If you’re like me, I am even more thankful for things when I know how much work and effort went into making it happen. Plus, this is a family holiday! Take advantage of that family time by passing on family recipes and traditions in the kitchen!

  • Have them help with the turkey
  • Teach them how to make grandma’s famous pie
  • Ask them to set the table and encourage them to get creative with the decorations
  • Have them make their favorite side dish

There are easy ways to get teenagers involved in making Thanksgiving dinner a success!

 

Create a thankfulness activity.

Be intentional about the way your family talks about thankfulness. A great way to do that is to create a family activity that everyone can participate in.

Maybe you get a paper or cheap fabric tablecloth that your family can use for the month of November. Every time your family sits down to eat together, have everyone write something that they are thankful for on the tablecloth. This is fun to see what you have been thankful for over a short period of time, and you can even keep the tablecloth for the next year!

Another idea is to create a thankfulness tree. This is a great excuse to put up your Christmas tree a few weeks early, or you could have a separate, smaller tree just for thankful words. Each day, have your family (or each member of the family if you are really thankful) decide on something you are thankful for and write it on an ornament. Decorate your tree with things you are thankful for before you fill it with presents!

Perhaps your thankfulness activity is something as simple as asking each family member to pick something they are thankful for and share it every night before bed. It does not have to be elaborate for it to be meaningful!

 

Give back to others in need. 

Sometimes it is easier to be thankful for what we do have when we serve people who have less than us. Growing up, service was a big part of what my family did together. We went on mission trips, adopted families at Christmas time and served the homeless on different occasions. These are opportunities for you to not only talk about your own blessings, but to also create family memories that will have a lasting impact.

If you are looking for a way to serve this holiday season, here are some ideas:

  • Go shopping for canned goods and help your local food pantry stock their shelves. Ask if they need any help!
  • Serve a meal at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
  • Request a M.A.G.I. box and fill it with goodies for a child in need.
  • Go through your closet and donate your old coats and sweaters.
  • Surprise a family by paying their grocery bill or pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru of your favorite restaurant.

Whatever you decide to do, serve as a family and take advantage of the conversations that can come out of this experience!

Are you willing to try any of these things to promote thankfulness? What other ideas have you used to make the holiday season extra special?

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Don’t Panic – Get Involved in Schools!

Don’t Panic – Get Involved in Schools!

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School is a major part of every teenager’s life. It is also the best way to serve and reach students on their turf. In this episode, Chris and Karlie discuss the importance of adult involvement in schools and how you can be a resource to your community. Don’t panic about the current state of our teenagers and their schools, let’s get involved and start making a difference by reaching out to public schools!

[bctt tweet=”If we want to make an impact on the world, we need to make ourselves a resource to public schools. – @teenlife_ngo” via=”no”]

In this episode, you’ll find out…

  • Why it is important to volunteer and get involved in your local school.
  • How school involvement benefits both the school staff and the students.
  • Real-life examples of ways to get involved in schools.
  • 3 different stories of how people in our community our reaching out to schools.
  • A 3-step process to volunteering on a school campus.

Ask yourself…

  • Is there a school close by that I would like to get involved with?
  • What skills or services could I offer to my local school?

Go ask a school campus…

  • Do you have a volunteer coordinator that I can get in touch with?
  • How can I help?
  • What can I do to support your staff and students?

Resources

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us

Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

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