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Give a Little: Family Volunteering

Teens Are Natural-Born Helpers

While all humans have the inclination to lend a hand, teens possess additional idealism, energy, and a fresh perspective, says Bill Hoogterp, senior adviser to HandsOn Network, a national organization that mobilizes volunteers. "Kids come up with great ideas because no one has told them they can't," he says. Hoogterp also believes every person has a deep commitment to at least one issue—for example, education or animal protection—and the key is combining that concern with a fun activity. To help teens identify hot-button issues, expose them to as many things as possible, and pay attention to what has an effect. Did something happen at school or on the news that your teen thinks is unfair? Find out what resonates, then suggest taking action. "Service isn't something we need to put into kids," says Hoogterp. "In fact, we have to draw it out of them."