Often this time of year the attention is on adolescent depression and anxiety because of the stress of the holiday season. With all of that information out there, the focus of this article is on adolescent joy and giving, finding gratitude and abundance in everyday life, and sharing that with others.
If your adolescent is anywhere near college age or planning for it at any age, they are already aware that how they serve their community will weigh in on an admission committee’s decision in highly sought placements. Volunteerism and giving also count when scholarship committees are comparing applicants and looking for the type of citizen they want on their campus. It is important to steer children from an early age toward sharing and giving, but it usually manifests in adolescence. Schools will encourage community projects; clubs and societies also teach this and require participation in it to join. Even those on sports teams usually participate in volunteering and worthy projects at this time of year and it may be expected by the team leaders.
With any activity, it is not just what you offer others, but what you receive in return. If your adolescent can find joy in giving of his or her time, energy, and enthusiasm in order to help others in need, then they are finding their place as a citizen of the community, the nation, and the world. It is important to help them with verbal and emotional support, join them if asked, and talk about the many levels of value and satisfaction that comes from participating in a sharing activity. Not to be forgotten is the sharing of joy by receiving well. Sometimes all that is available to receive is the “thank you”, but sometimes the person receiving wants to give something back. Parents and other adults can help the adolescent know how to handle receiving an offer from someone without taking something unnecessarily and without insulting the person making the offer. Graciousness in giving and receiving is a precious gift that will help the adolescent in every facet of their life. The best way to prepare them is to run through some “what ifs” so they will have at least an introduction to the possibility and not feel caught off guard. One good strategy is to suggest the person “pay it forward” and give it to the next person that they think needs it. Talk about how that sets up a chain reaction for positive behavior continuing long past the holiday season. It can be a gift and a blessing for others who have no idea that they will be receiving and it keeps the true spirit of the season alive and well throughout the year.