We live in a very fast-paced, media-oriented, and electronically engaged world. So do our kids. The shift between a generation ago and today’s youth, is significant. We had “The Brady Bunch” and “The Flintstones’; today’s kids have exponentially more options, and in more areas than what they choose to watch on TV.
In school, students are faced with a renewed focus on core academics. There is an emphasis on literacy and math, which drives high-stakes testing and creates an atmosphere that is both focused, but also stressed. Beyond that, students must do projects, service learning, engage in character and social learning, take electives, join extracurriculars, and have friends. With all that kids must do, parents best course is to help guide the decisions their children make.
Students are often expected to perform community service or engage in a major service-oriented project before graduation. This is a great opportunity to channel the influences coming at kids with the interests of the individual child. For instance, if a child seems to have a greater interest in community related issues, than a service project that requires community outreach would be perfect. If a child is particularly interested in social occurrences, what happens between friends and the more interpersonal activities at school, than a peer-oriented project could be a great choice.
The teenage years bring about a child’s first real engagement with issues of social justice. Their interests could be local or global, and those interests will likely help define future pursuits. There are a great many resources that can help students and families connect to organizations that promote engagement in social justice. Organizations such as United Way, Habit for Humanity or ReachOut can be a great starting place for a child to explore their interests.
When students have the opportunity to work on a project of the magnitude of a senior project, one potential pitfall is that their choice of project is influence by peers. They may choose something because their friends are doing it, and not because it truly is their interest. With that in mind, helping and guiding these decisions is very important. Working with the school and advising teachers for any projects can help propel a direct line through the many options that students will have when it comes to major projects.