Raising teens can be tough. With their full schedules, how do you balance school, friends, and activities while still finding room to teach them about important issues in the world?
Blogger Nicole Wick gives four tips for how to help your kids better understand global poverty.
Let’s face it, our kids our busy people. I have a teen and a tween at home, and their schedules are full with school, friends, and activities. When our lives are busy and our choices for entertainment are limitless, how can parents find ways to teach teens and tweens about issues that are important?
Teaching them about poverty and finding ways to broaden cultural understanding are hard sells in the world of texting and cell phone apps. My husband and I are always looking for ways to prevent our 13 and 15-year-old from becoming too self-absorbed (difficult, I know) and take what opportunities we can to interrupt their latest Pokémon hunt with something a bit more substantive.
Here are four ways in which we have helped our teen and tween better understand global poverty and connect with the children we sponsor through World Vision:
1. Read books about poverty or the home country of your sponsored child
Every month my children have reading lists to complete. Typically, we like to encourage their interests and allow them to choose books that they will enjoy. But occasionally we require a book or two that we think will help expand their worldview while satisfying their home reading requirements for school. I mean, if they have to read anyway, right?
If you are looking for a few suggestions, Amazon has an entire section dedicated to Homelessness and Poverty that includes hundreds of Young Adult fiction and nonfiction titles that you and your child can choose from. Our 15-year-old son has a particular interest in history. Selecting titles that helped him understand the home countries of our sponsored children in Rwanda and Vietnam have made a huge impact on his understanding of why sponsoring children in war-torn countries is so important.
2. Watch movies and television shows that explore themes of poverty or highlight the culture of the home country of your sponsored child
One of the best movies we ever watched as a family was a random Netflix find called Living on One Dollar. The documentary follows a group of guys who spend two months in a rural Guatemalan community and attempt to live on one dollar per day. The conversations that we were able to have about the documentarian’s experience compared to the costs associated with living a day in our home were incredibly valuable.
Asking our kids to sit through an entire documentary with us is a tall order. If you are short on time (or patience), try travel and cooking shows that highlight countries that your sponsored children live in. We sponsor children in Vietnam and one in Peru, both of which have been featured on several food, travel, and culture shows. Does the TV host eat something that your child finds interesting? Have her look up a recipe and cook it for your family.
My son, the history and geography buff, likes to measure the distance between the city featured in a show or movie and the place where our sponsored child lives. Watching these shows and discussing how the show highlights some aspects of your sponsored child’s life helps them understand that your child is more than a photo in a magnet frame on your refrigerator.
3. Explore your local community
About two years ago, we invested in an art museum membership. Best. Idea. Ever. In addition to art exhibits that might have origins in your sponsored child’s home country (or a neighboring one), we have taken advantage of cultural classes, craft tables, cooking seminars, music concerts, and a beautiful African dance program.
Looking for something more hands on? Volunteering has been one of the most valuable family experiences we have ever engaged in. In our area, we were able to find several hands-on volunteer projects that we could do as a family ranging from helping with an urban garden project to serving in a soup kitchen.
4. Write letters
This seems like an obvious suggestion, but I’ll be honest: typically I’m the one writing letters to our sponsored children. Now that our kids are older, I’ve started to ask them to send a letter or an email themselves. There is nothing quite like making that personal connection with your sponsored child and having your son or daughter put his or her own thoughts into words. Their letters sometimes include photos that they have taken themselves, and in our daughter’s case often include something that she has drawn or painted. When letters from our sponsored children arrive in the mailbox, I let my kids open them and read them aloud to the family. Having a sponsored child is a gift in and of itself. As a parent, watching your children own that relationship is twice as special.
Raising teens is hard. Really hard. Hopefully these tips will help you find an opportunity to help your teen or tween connect with your sponsored child! Have something to add or a suggestion from your family’s experience? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.
What if summer wasn’t a break from school, but an opportunity to change the world? Check out World Vision's PLAY-It-Forward Challenges: 10 fun family games that help your kids learn how to pay it forward this summer—with stories of real families who've made a difference!