Backyard Teen Retreat
Teens and Chores
Avoiding Teen After-School Problems
I have two teenage daughters and we live in a lower-middle income neighborhood. Most of the other kids who come around have little or no desire to "do" anything. They just want to "hang". I don't mind them being at our house but would like to get them all involved, perhaps without them knowing it, in activities for themselves or for other people in the neighborhood. The kids, about 4-8 at a time, are average kids. I did have a pumpkin carving get together the weekend before Halloween which the kids seemed to enjoy. Any suggestions on how to get them involved with the neighborhood or even activities (crafts) geared toward teens, both boy and girls? Most have never been in scouts, church groups, etc. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Melanie A. in Columbus, Ohio
Encourage them to explore their family tree. It is really very easy. Start with themselves, then go to Mom and Dad, then both sets of grandparents and then to the great grandparents. It is not expensive, but encourages use of libraries and other resources, it is something they can do together in groups of 2 or more. It also encourages visits and dialogue with older members of their families who are usually a great resource of information and often have old photographs tucked away. Information can be put into something as simple as a school notebook. Often it turns into a life long hobby and something they can one day pass on to their children.
Melanie is sitting on a gold mine of opportunity with the teens that want to just hang at her house with her kids. Many years ago, my husband's mother was the force behind a church group called Girls In Action. She had a giant van and every Wednesday night, my husband would go with his dad to do whatever they did at church and his mother would be driving around the mountain side in Eagle River, Alaska, gathering the girls who were in this group. She led and I have no doubt that those girls, whose parents were too busy to take them to GIA, were positively influenced by her interest.
I hope that she can talk to one of the counselors at the high school and find out how to loosely gather the kids and do something like volunteer at the local nursing home one day or so a week, or find out if there is a senior who needs to have his or her house painted and ask the kids to join her family on the project. If they aren't junior delinquents, it won't be hard that once they get involved in something to get approval to go in on a volunteer basis.
Teens want to fit in and I think that many feel insecure about going out and trying for a job or a volunteer position. If they are doing this as a group, they will feel the safety in numbers and have something to talk about afterwards. I hope so much that Melanie can involve these kids-- no matter what they do, everyone will gain. Seniors love teens, and it amazes me now as I see my mother volunteering with a group of rough teenaged boys who, fifteen years ago, she would have looked at with fear and dread as she belittled everything that I did. Now she talks about the fresh ideas of our nations' youth!
While growing up, my friends and I came to the conclusion "A cheap date = a fun date" We did so many fun things that cost almost next to nothing! These are date ideas we had but you can use them for any group of people. Have fun!
We have a new program in our church, "Rent a Youth". The youth do odd jobs for the people who rent them, and the people give a reasonable donation to the youth group. This is used for trips and other activities of the group. This could be done in their neighborhood and a nearby neighborhood. In addition to home fix it projects such as painting and yard work, some of the youth did computer work, accounting, etc. I spoke with one youth who was so enthusiastic about the work she had done for "Rent a Youth". You would have thought she got paid personally! It was very rewarding to listen to her. The woman who wants the activities for the youth could put the money they make in a special bank account and they could have a say in where they want to go on the money. It would keep them busy, and certainly benefit the whole community.
A 500 to 1000 piece puzzle out on a coffee table is a challenge some cannot resist, you may walk into the room and find all the teens sitting around trying to put the puzzles together.
Here are some suggestions - I hope they help.
As a former teacher of teenagers, I am happy to hear of a mom helping keep teens out of trouble by welcoming them into her home. While it may seem that these teens may just want to "hang," most are hungry for activity (which is why many get involved in the wrong kind of activity). Here are a few suggestions:
This mom can be very helpful, but most teens want a little distance from their parents. So I'd suggest that this mom help out, but try not to "run the show."
Even if this mom tries to get these kids moving and they prefer to hang, they're better off in her home than on the streets!
Teen girls seem to enjoy babies so I would suggest them volunteering at the local hospitals long term nursery. This is where babies who are too sick to leave the hospital in the first week following birth and/or abandoned at birth are cared for. The volunteers feed and play with the babies to give them extra love and physical contact. It's usually for only a couple of hours at a time.
The children's ward at the hospital is also a place teens like to volunteer. They mostly play games and read to them.
Fewer teens show interest, but some enjoy working with the elderly. They can volunteer to spend time with nursing home residents where they will read, participate in center activities and offer simple companionship to the residents.
If they are interested in drama, they can put together a show that they can present at the hospital and/or nursing home. It can be seasonal or just entertaining for anytime.
Last, some advice, pay attention to what they talk about when they lounge around. More often than not there will be the beginning of ideas in their conversation that just need a little cultivating. If they complain about something, suggest they come up with a solution and implement it. For instance, if they think the school social activities are boring or unimaginative, suggest they become committee members and improve/increase the student activities. If they've tried and were told that money was the issue, suggest they come up with some school drives and fundraisers to get the money needed.
One of the most innovative ideas I've ever witnessed was done by a couple here in Fort Collins. I think the two teenagers could "sponsor" the same type of activity with tremendous success.
Our local couple (and their children) hold slumber parties for their neighborhood children. The way it works is, they rent good children's' movies, and everyone in the neighborhood is invited to bring a sleeping bag and pillow to the "camp out." They show the movie on a large screen t.v. set up in their garage, and everyone camps out in the driveway. It has grown in popularity so much that this year, when they did it over the last weekend before school started, there were over 50 children and parents.
The camp out was instrumental in bringing the neighborhood together and strengthening the "good neighbor" feel. Everyone got to know each other while the kids had a wonderful time.
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