Volunteer With Your Tween This Summer Advises LSU AgCenter Family Expert

Diane Sasser  |  4/19/2005 10:28:35 PM

News Release Distributed May 2004

Is your child or grandchild about 13 or 14? Does he think he’s too old to hang out at Grandma’s house, or does she think she’s too young for a summer job? Try volunteering together, recommends LSU AgCenter family life professor Dr. Diane D. Sasser.

"Summer can be hard for those "be-tweens," who think they’re too old for day camp or babysitters but too young to be left alone for days at a time," the adolescent expert says, adding, "That age also can be hard on grandparents, aunts and other relatives who usually have enjoyed a close relationship but now find it becoming strained."

Children who once looked forward to going to grandma’s for the week may now be reluctant to leave their friends and other activities. Grandparents and other relatives, however, can recognize this changing relationship by creating some grown-up activities to do together. The trick is to find a common interest and be able to match need with abilities.

Volunteer activities are a good way to generate experience for a future paying job. They may relate to a subject he or she is interested in, such as sports, medicine or animals. Or, the experience may relate more to an environment, such as outside activities, being with children, working alone, etc.

Does the adolescent like animals? Sasser advises checking with the local animal shelter, animal rescue organizations, the zoo or even a veterinarian to see if any of them can use volunteer help. Be sure to explain the length of time available, age and capabilities of the teen, and emphasize that you would like to do this together. A child who is wonderful with her pet cats may be terrified of large animals or snakes, so keep in mind the interests of the child.

Have you taught your grandchild to sew or to do woodworking? Making caps for young cancer patients or toys for a battered women’s shelter can put those skills to use. Do you love to watch ball games together? Then maybe the two of you can help coach a fledgling team. Is there a neighbor or friend with a spouse deployed by the military? The remaining spouse may need help with yard care or some time away from the kids.

"As much as possible, the adolescent should see the need and the result of the effort," Sasser says. If collecting toys for a children’s hospital ward, let the adolescent be involved in delivering them. When that’s not feasible, encourage him or her to write a personal note. Many times they will receive one in reply.

The family life professor says to do your homework ahead of time, and identify several possibilities you both may like. Ask the teen for ideas as well. By respecting his or her ideas and interests, you are saying that you value them, and that their ideas matter. Discuss the options together, and plan on a rewarding experience for both of you.

For information on related family and consumer topics in family, housing and nutrition visit the FCS Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/
Extension/Departments/fcs/. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/Extension/
Departments/fcs/
Source: Diane D. Sasser (225) 578-6701 or Dsasser@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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