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Everyday Strong: Building confident teens within your community

By Emily Golightly - Special to the Daily Herald | Oct 8, 2022

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo

Volunteer Gavin Miller, then a freshman at Brigham Young University, packs a holiday box with food at Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020.

A common experience among teenagers is anxiety, withdrawing from their peers, or shyness. As a parent, how can you help them overcome that? The answer lies in community involvement!

Teenagers can initially struggle with community involvement due to it being a new, or a scary leap into the unknown. As a parent you can join in with your teen to make them feel safe, comfortable and confident in their new environment.

Dr. Andy Harris, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Utah State University, studies the civic attitudes and behaviors of teenagers. In a recent podcast episode, he suggested a few ideas for how to get your teen involved in your community.

First, keep the activity free of conflict. When a parent is forcing or pressuring their teen into service, it can make community involvement feel like a chore. Instead, try to gently nudge or bring up new ideas that may spark your teens interest.

Second, be aware of service activities in your area. When your teen doesn’t have to seek out their own ideas for involvement, half of the burden is lifted! They can have the freedom to pick and choose what fits their personality best. A volunteer website that provides different ideas is http://volunteer.unitedwayuc.org.

Third, emphasize and encourage your teen that this can positively impact their future when applying for jobs, internships or college — community service is a huge building block of experience.

Many teens begin their community engagement with the goal of receiving better jobs or scholarship opportunities, but once they become more involved they tend to find satisfaction in helping others. Their motivation shifts from wanting to gain greater personal benefit, to wanting to allow others to benefit the most. Their external motivators morph into long-lasting internal motivators.

Your teen’s skills are extremely versatile, and they can be a leading force for good within their community! In an effort to help parents grow a more comprehensive understanding of service, Dr. Harris said, “I think, as adults encouraging teens to give service, we sometimes need to broaden our understanding of what service actually is and how we can make the community a better place! It’s not always picking up trash or pulling weeds.”

In reality, community engagement doesn’t have to involve complex, day-long activities. Small, continuous efforts are what can make a difference for both you and your teen.

If you would like to learn more about building the confidence of your teenagers, listen to our latest podcast episode with Dr. Harris for additional ideas, activities and advice towards connecting to your teen through community engagement!

United Way of Utah County is on a mission to help every child in our community feel safe, connected, and confident. You can listen to our latest podcast episode at anchor.fm/everydaystrong (or on Apple Podcast and Spotify). Learn more about us at everydaystrong.org.

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