By Lybi Ma, published on April 29, 2007 - last reviewed on March 4, 2013
If only teenagers came with an instruction kit. We all know that getting through to them may seem like a case for Unsolved Mysteries—especially when you're dealing with the hot-button issues. You know those all-too common scenarios: You find a bag of pot kicking around the floor of the family car. You come across cigarette butts under the hedges. Or, you learn that your kid is partaking in unprotected sex. Clearly, any number of things can go wrong, and badly.
Changing the way a kid thinks and behaves may seem as thorny as a root canal, but it doesn't have to be such a painful battle. Researchers studying teens and altruism have been unearthing some promising data. For one thing, having a giving nature actually makes kids happier and healthier; and they end up living a whole lot longer. Granted, our culture promotes individualism, which can be a good thing; you get plenty of strong-minded young adults. Then again, it can be a bad thing; you get plenty of self-centered kids who think the world revolves around them.
A giving nature has been documented to help us in myriad ways. According to Stephen Post and Jill Neimark, authors of Why Good Things Happen to Good People, those who do good have healthier hearts, are less depressed, have higher self-esteem, and are generally more successful. It's no surprise, then, that dynamic CEOs are commonly altruistic and giving. In fact, according to one study that appeared in Psychosomatic Medicine, a healthy mental outlook is linked more to giving help than getting help. So prodding our kids to get out of themselves and become more involved with others can lead to a better life for them now and in the years to come. Here are a few more reasons to encourage a giving nature in your teenager:
But how do you nurture a helping spirit in your kid? That can be tricky, especially when they tend to sleep until noon and break out in hives over picking up a broom. So here are a few ideas to get your teen off the computer or the couch: