I am the mother of an almost 20-yr-old daughter. It has been a
joy to watch her grow up and see the worldly woman she has
become. Worldly, that is, in the sense that she is ready to go
out and make her mark on the world and there is nothing holding
her back. Some people are born with more adventurous spirits
than others, but I think parents have a lot to do with
influencing their teen's view of the world through introducing
them to a number of enriching experiences throughout their teen
There are a number of ways you can help your teen to get out into
the world and experience it in a positive way. The more your
teen travels and sees the world, experiencing new people and
places, the more likely he or she will continue to do so as an
adult and look at the world in a different way. Teens who do not
have these experiences are more likely to have a limited view
of the world as adults.
My daughter's teen experiences were for the most part not
intentional on my part. She was blessed with a number of
opportunities that helped mold her into the young woman she is
today. I am thankful to be able to use her experiences as a
model for my younger children, and help them to also grow into
the well rounded person my daughter is today.
My daughter started venturing out into the world when she was 11
years old. A great way to introduce kids to the world outside of
their "comfort zone" of family and friends is to get them to
volunteer for non-profit organizations. You can find many places
to volunteer through a church, or through a local association
that organizes community volunteers. My daughter started out by
volunteering at the local humane society, and then that summer
volunteered as a helper at a daycamp for developmentally disabled
kids. That experience led to four years of summer involvement
with that organization. It totally changed how she looked at and
interacted with other people, especially disabled people. I
think the keys to getting your kids to volunteer are to 1) start
them young, 2) let them help decide where to volunteer, and 3)
volunteer as a family or at least with one parent/child.
The volunteer work my daughter did led to her winning a week-long
trip to Disney World (with 2,000 other kids from around the
world) when she was 12 years old. We would never have been able
to afford to take her, but her volunteer work got her there. She
will never forget that experience.
Another way your teen can broaden his or her view of the world is
through travel. As you can see, travel doesn't have to be
expensive if you find creative ways to get you there. One of the
ways my daughter has been able to travel is through missions
work. Many churches and other non-profit organizations offer
opportunities to travel and see the world, while also helping
other people. While in high school my daughter spent time in a
homeless shelter in Montana, doing repair work at schools in
Idaho, working on an Indian reservation in Washington, and the
summer before her senior year she spent several weeks in
Honduras. Other teens from our church have spent time in Africa,
El Salvador, and Mexico.
Many high schools also offer opportunities to travel, in their
music and foreign language programs. There are also ambassador
programs that send high school students overseas for several
weeks during the summer. All of these trips can be paid for with
fund raising so that the parents don't have to foot the entire
I cannot emphasize enough how much these experiences have
affected my daughter and enriched her life. They are a part of
her, and it is very natural for her to now go out and look for
these experiences on her own. She is currently at college
preparing to work in some type of non-profit organization when
she graduates. She is excited to make a difference in the world.
It is tempting to leave teens to their own devices and create
their own experiences. Don't be fooled into believing that you
can't still influence their lives. It may take a little
prodding, but once you find something they are interested in, the
rest will happen naturally and they will thank you for it later.
Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom of four. For more
inspirational articles and tips for everyday living, visit
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