If you have teenagers in your home or work at a school or youth group, then you probably know that this generation is one that tends to be involved in their community and is not afraid to speak their mind. Even if you’ve been watching the news and didn’t know any teenagers, then you probably have a sense that Generation Z is very civic minded. Because of it, it’s an excellent opportunity for schools, nonprofits, civic groups and clubs to engage the energy and force of today’s teenagers.
An article in The Atlantic noted a study done by the forecasting firm, Sparks and Honey, which “found that 26% of 16-19-year olds already volunteer on a regular basis.” Teenagers are a valuable asset to your organization if you get them to work with you for some of the following reasons:
- Teenagers have a great way and ability to raise awareness for your group because they are not afraid to speak their minds.
- Teens know how to mobilize, and they are experts in social networking, including any new platform that is in the market.
- Teenagers that become passionate and engaged in a cause are not shy about communicating it to others, including their families, friends, and community.
- Teens have demonstrated again and again that they are ready for leadership positions in their communities. They want to be involved, especially this generation.
- There’s no one better than teens to hold people accountable. When you have an engaged group of teens, they will want to move the ball forward and keep you on task.
The flip side of that same coin is that teenagers benefit from community engagement and involvement. Being involved in the neighborhood helps them to develop the necessary skills they will need as they transition into their adult years. These skills include leadership, critical thinking, compassion, kindness, generosity, and awareness for the common good.
Get Teens Involved
If you’re group or organization wants to tap into the energy of today’s teens to help you raise awareness for a cause, there are some things you should consider to help inspire them to join you.
- Provide a clear purpose: One of the best things you can do to engage teens is to treat them with respect and as young adults. Have frank and clear conversations about what you’re looking to do and why. Teenagers today, just like older adults, want to understand the impact of the work they will be doing in the community by supporting your cause.
- Model leadership: Leadership is a skill that can be natural to some, but is also learned. If you’re looking for teenagers to become leaders, model the behavior for them. Teens will take cues from adults, and as they are developing their skills, they will look to adults to simply model behaviors that are characteristics of good leaders.
- Demonstrate empathy: No one likes to be talked down to, and that includes teenagers. Don’t assume that you understand them and how they think or feel about particular issues, including being a volunteer. Instead, ask questions and try to engage them in thoughtful conversations about what you’d like to achieve and how they can develop themselves. Ask them for their thoughts and ideas and help them understand that they have a voice and part of the community that is very valuable.
- Positively recognize teens: You have to encourage people, and that includes teenagers. Give them feedback and cheer them on for the work they’re doing because it will only encourage them to want to continue to be involved. Show them that you recognize what they’re doing and that you care about work with you. There are many ways to achieve this, including creating fun opportunities for them for recognition.
- Space and independence: Teenagers are on the cusp of becoming adults, and they want to be treated as such. Remember back to the days when you were transitioning from childhood to becoming an adult. Speak with them about what you’d like them to achieve, and then trust in them to get the job done. Let them work with some space and independence so they can bring their style and abilities to the table.
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