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Making a Difference in a Teen's Life

Teenagers tend to get a bad rep. Oftentimes, they’re noisy, irritable and maybe even disrespectful. From an adult’s perspective, teens can be pretty hard to manage. However, the teenage years are actually a very valuable time in a person’s life. The teen’s brain is still developing, they’re on the cusp of adulthood and they’re trying to figure out their identity. Not to mention, middle and high school can be a tough place to find friends and feel accepted.

Teenagers have a lot to manage and not a lot of life experience to utilize, which can result in a bad attitude and frustrating relationships. All of this is exactly why teenagers need valuable adult relationships in their lives. They need someone they can look up to, feel connected with and know they can go to during difficult times. If you’re an adult trying to live a more altruistic life, one of the most valuable contributions you can make is supporting a teenager.

Teenagers are our future; by building them up and encouraging them—even if they’re not our own children—we can create a better future for generations to come. Still, how do you start? How can you establish a valuable relationship with a teenager? Today we dive into some ways to make a difference in a teen’s life.

1. Volunteer with school programs.
One of the easiest ways to make a difference in a teenager’s life is by volunteering through a school or afterschool program. Whether you help out as a coach for a sport team, take charge of a club or work with a nonprofit organization, you can connect with teenagers of all different backgrounds in your community. Programs like these are constantly looking for new volunteers, and oftentimes will even provide valuable resources to help you learn more about communicating with teenagers. Check in your community to see what programs are available through the school or through an organization and learn how you can get more involved.

2. Show up consistently.
How do you gain a teenager’s trust? Keep showing up. People—teens especially—value those relationships with those who are there for them, no matter what. If you find a worthwhile program that you want to volunteer with, don’t just make it a one-time thing. One-time volunteering doesn’t allow you to build any sustainable relationships. Instead, keep showing up consistently, so the teens can get to know you more and more. The more you show up, the more they will recognize you and feel comfortable opening up.

3. Give them food.
Honestly, who doesn’t love food? As Charles M. Schulz said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” Teens are no different—they go where the food is. And since teenagers often aren’t done growing yet, they need a lot of it. They also don’t have very much of their own money. When you spend time with teenagers, make them a home-cooked meal, take them out for fast food or even provide some snacks to really help build up a stable relationship. You’d be surprised how many teens will come for the free food, then stay for the conversation and bonding time.

4. Listen to them.
All of us want to know that someone out there hears us, including teens. Think about it—teens spend the majority of their day listening to adults tell them what to do. It’s no wonder they can feel frustrated sometimes; they don’t feel heard. The most valuable thing you can do to make a difference in a teenager’s life is simply to listen to them. Listening—true listening—is a gift. Listen to a teenager’s problems, struggles and joys in life without being quick to offer advice or condemn their choices. By opening up and really listening, you can truly be a meaningful person for teenagers to go to.

Teenagers are the future of our community. By investing in them, we invest in generations to come. Use these tips to get involved and make a difference in a teen’s life today.

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