At DoSomething.org's six Social Action Boot Camps around the country, Nancy Lublin—CEO and Chief Old Person (yes, that's actually her title)—regularly meets kids who exemplify their generation's desire to make positive changes in the world. Lublin, who coauthored a book for kids interested in getting involved—Do Something: A Handbook for Young Activists (Workman)—talks about how to motivate your teen.
Q: How can parents get a kid to become more interested in volunteering and social action?
A: By creating a home environment that welcomes it. Notice I said welcomes, not pushes. There's a big difference. We don't recommend pushing this kind of thing on your kid.
Q: Experts often recommend encouraging kids to become involved in causes they care about. How can parents get that conversation started?
A: Don't ask, What do you like? Instead, ask, What makes you mad? What would you change if you could? One question that works especially well: If you had one minute to talk to President Obama, what would you want to tell him?
Q: So once you've helped your kid identify a hot-button issue, what comes next?
A: Some parents make the mistake of saying, "Since you care about abandoned dogs, let's go to the shelter next week and do something about it." Don't approach it that way. Let him express why he cares about the issue on his own. Then say, "I didn't know that," or "What can we do to help?" Let him feel like he is leading the charge, like the next step is up to him. Be supportive.
Q: How about leading by example? Should parents volunteer more often to spark their kids' interest?
A: That kind of role modeling is terrific—if you pick a cause that is meaningful to you. But be sure to let your kids find their own things. It will be longer lasting and more meaningful that way.
Share stories of teens making a difference at familycircle.com/actingup