Malala Yousafzai (age 16) represents the power our teens have when they are passionate about a cause. Last month she received the Clinton Global Initiative Leadership in Civil Society award. She was also a contender for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Taliban militants shot this Pakistani teenager in the head a year ago for championing girls’ right to an education. After months of recovery in the UK, she is now well and speaking publicly in front of the United Nations and other world councils. Her message is conciliatory: asking for dialogue with the militants. Bravery and a focus on non-violent conflict resolution are, indeed, heroic qualities.
How can we channel teens’ boundless energy and focus it on heroic action? Three suggestions:
1) Take on causes as a family. If your family helps out with monthly food preparation and serving at a homeless shelter, you are modeling that service is a family value.
2) Spend time with your teen determining his/her passion. A passion for animals could result in volunteering on a campaign to increase spaying and neutering of pets. Does your teen love robotics? Maybe s/he would be willing to volunteer in an elementary after-school robotics program and light this fire in younger children.
3) Find meaningful ways to meet school or youth group service hour requirements. Service is more than just putting in hours. Teens can align their passions and strengths with community needs. This might also have the added benefit of being a precursor to career opportunities.
Finally, when you see noteworthy teens in the news, be sure it with your teen. You may even find parallels that allow you to identify similar stellar qualities in your teen. Let’s encourage our teens to focus their passions and be everyday heroes making a difference in the world.