These days, lots of teens are focused on themselves and the drama in their own lives. However, with the prevalence for immersion in social media and the ever-popularity of selfies, it can be good for teenagers to get outside of themselves more — by volunteering.
Volunteering helps teens (and people of all ages) to realize how lucky they are and the challenges other people may face. It also offers other benefits, including the ability to learn new skills, make new friends, build self-esteem and empathy, get experience for resumes and more.
While there are lots of wonderful volunteering opportunities for teenagers in their home town, many parents like the idea of their child heading off to a work camp to have a more intensive experience that can teach them about themselves and the world at large. If your child is planning to visit one of various youth work camps, it’s important to help prepare them, so they get the most out of the opportunity. Read on for some tips for getting your teen ready for this experience.
Help Your Child Choose the Right Volunteering Program for Them
It’s important for your teen to enroll in a camp that is best for them, based on their interests, personality and needs. However, since there are so many volunteering programs to choose from, it’s important to give your child assistance in finding the right one.
Start by considering what type of organization you want them to travel with. You may already have something in mind thanks to local church or charity connections. Keep in mind the part of the country or world they’d like to travel to. Compare options carefully and consider the pros and cons of each camp based around your teenager’s preferences and what you will feel comfortable with them signing up for.
Do Plenty of Research
Once the decision has been made about a volunteering camp and your teen is enrolled, sit down together and spend time completing research on the location where they’ll be based. This will help both you and your child to be more comfortable about them going away without you, and it will help to ensure they aren’t too shocked by what they find when they arrive.
If the trip involves international travel, learn about things like the culture in the destination country and that nation’s food, clothing expectations (e.g. does your child need to cover up more skin than they’re used to?), religious differences, legalities, currency, internet and phone availability and so on.
Discuss Goals and Challenges
Another way to help prepare your teenager for their camp experience is to have some deep discussions with them. Talk about, in-depth, the goals they have for their trip and the strategies they can follow to be proactive and achieve what they’d like to.
Your chats should also focus on the types of challenges that may arise when your teen is away from home and dealing with unfamiliar people and situations. Troubleshoot workarounds for potential situations, and assure them you will only be a call, email, video call or social media chat away if they need you. Also let them know it’s perfectly normal to feel a variety of emotions at the prospect of their camp, such as anxiety, excitement, fear and hope.
Encourage the Learning of New Skills
To help your child to be as prepared for their volunteering camp as possible, it is wise for them to pick up some new skills, too. For example, if they’re traveling to a place where a different language is spoken to their own, it will be good for them to learn the basics of this language before they go away.
While they’ll be supervised on the camp and shouldn’t have to face too many unsupervised situations, having knowledge of key words and phrases will help them to make better connections with locals, feel more confident and have more fun.
Introduce Teens to Others Who Have Completed Camps
If your teen is rather nervous about going off on a camp for the first time, or heading overseas without you, see if you can connect them with someone who has completed similar camps. By chatting with other teens or young adults who have been in their shoes in the past, and getting some handy tips, they will have a better understanding of what’s in front of them and what they do or don’t have to concern themselves with.