Last month, I wrote about Global Youth Service Day, and for the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time reading about the fantastic service young people are providing in their schools and communities throughout the world. I can’t help but recognize the empowering adults that are supporting the effort of these youth.
Search Institute has identified Adult role models as one of the 40 Developmental Assets. Research shows these are characteristics of healthy, caring, resilient kids. The more assets youth have, the more likely they’ll resist risky behaviors in the future.
As a school counselor I have many opportunities to model how to get involved in social initiatives, or random acts of kindness. I can also see how the Girl Scout and 4-H leaders, after-school program coordinators, YMCA directors and community liaisons can do it. In the course of their job or volunteer work, they bring together young people to do great things, and they’re very good at it.
But what about as moms and dads?
Believe it or not, we have the same ability to impact young people, if not an even stronger ability to do so. Our kids’ friends are perfect candidates for our own best role modeling. You already do this in the way you interact with their friends, the fact you offer them an after-school snack, and because you give them a ride home sometimes after dark. But have you ever considered your potential role in encouraging them to contribute to society?
This year on Arbor Day, my husband and I did exactly that.
We’d ordered 600 trees from the county and had planned to plant them at our land as a family. But we were racing against the weather because we only had a couple hours between the time school got out and the time it was supposed to rain. So at the last minute, I recruited our kids’ friends to come and help as well. Believe it or not, they loved it and we planted all 600 trees in just over two hours (photos here.)
Considerations for recruiting your kids’ friends for service projects:
Speak directly to his or her parents and let them know exactly what you’re planning to do. Choose a non-controversial project (like environmental cleanup) and leave them an “easy out” so they don’t feel pressured to commit. Ask them if there are any special needs you should be aware of. Be sensitive about and prepared for needs for the project. Because we’d be in the woods and long grass, we brought several kinds of tick repellent, as well as gloves, hand wipes and bottled water. Celebrate the project’s completion – we all went out for dinner on the way home. Don’t be shocked when you discover a difficult project generates absolutely no whining, and is entirely more fun for everyone, since you brought friends along to help. Smile in secret when you feel like you’ve just worked a bunch of kids to the bone, but yet you become the “Cool Mom” for a day.
How could you invite your kids’ friends along with your family to do something important? Remember, every day is Arbor Day!
Thanks for joining in to build assets in your kids! I look forward to seeing you again next month for Positively Speaking.
Kelly Curtis is a Wisconsin school counselor and author of Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things. To read more about Kelly, please visit her Weblog, Pass the Torch or follow her on Twitter.