Since the very beginning of humanity, adults have always had various problems with teenagers. Every young person has a certain time period when he or she feels like an adult and loses proper perception of reality. In many cases, they become rebels and deny most moral rules. With such a state of mind teenagers’ behavior deteriorates, and in the end, they may be engaged in illegal actions (Robinson & Segal, 2013). Examples include smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, abusing drugs, and having a violent attitude toward other people or animals. The abovementioned behavior may lead to far more problems with irreversible consequences, for example, suicide or murder.
In fact, teenagers have various reasons for becoming troubled, for example, physical health problems, various mental disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, unsatisfactory social background, poor relations with family members, etc. Together with hormonal imbalance in the body of a young person, the abovementioned list of serious issues can completely change the whole identity of a teenager. In order to return troubled teenagers to their normal condition and behavior, various governmental social programs were implemented. Volunteering programs for troubled teenagers were created to prevent young people from being involved in unlawful activities, and to maintain their physical, mental, and social health.
Advantages of Troubled Teens Volunteering
Benefits of Volunteering: Physical Aspect
Unfortunately, teenagers and adults who have behavior issues do not consider various social and recovery programs as positive ones. However, such programs were created solely to help teenagers at the moment and in the future. The life of the vast majority of troubled teenagers involves unhealthy habits. They consume mostly junk food and alcohol drinks of low quality and lead a sedentary lifestyle. Smoking and drug abuse are a common part of life of young people with behavior problems. Such irresponsible attitude toward one’s health very often leads to severe health conditions, for example, cancer, heart and liver diseases, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
Various volunteering programs always have a positive effect on the state of health of troubled teenagers. In accordance with such programs, teenagers are under the control of special authorities constantly or most of the time. While being under constant control, it is very hard for teenagers to consume illegal products. From this point of view, the health condition of such teenagers tends to get better because they have no opportunity to consume alcohol and narcotics, therefore, their health can only improve (Crawford, 2006).
On the other hand, the presence of physical activities in volunteering programs has a positive impact on one’s health condition. Volunteering usually requires being active during the whole day. Various kinds of volunteer duties can be named, for example, providing help and support to old or poor people, gathering litter in the streets, performing social work of various kinds, etc. Despite the fact that all these physical actions are not done in the gym under the trainer’s control, they are a part of an active life. In fact, teenagers do various muscle-strengthening exercises, for example, long distance walking, lifting weights, bending body, and spending most of the time in the fresh air. This combination brings improvements in the general state of health. Moreover, when adolescents see that they feel better, they do not return to their original lifestyle, but continue with the active one. Another important fact is that adolescents are almost always far away from poisonous and dangerous items.
Also, after a long period without consuming drugs and alcohol, one’s propensity for these products weakens or vanishes completely. Taking into account the above-mentioned, it is obvious that volunteering has a highly positive impact on the physical health of teenagers. With the daily physical activity and the impossibility of substance abuse, volunteering can be recommended not only as a punishment for improper behavior, but also as a program against sedentary and improper lifestyle.
Psychological Advantages of Troubled Teens Volunteering
Volunteering programs have various advantages related to the psychological aspect as well. At first, all teenagers find volunteering not interesting and do not want to be engaged in such social programs. However, troubled teenagers began to realize all benefits these programs provide to all participants.
First, adolescents with a misbehavior history realize that society wishes only good for them and gives the best opportunities for rehabilitation. Sending troubled teenagers directly to correctional facilities will not have a positive impact on their future life. Such facilities as prisons may even cause an irreversible shift in the conscience of young people. In fact, the best way to punish a teenager for improper behavior is to make him or her to do social work. Facing hard labor every day and seeing people in need, young individuals may change their attitude toward life in general and become more loyal to other people. Moreover, teenager’s volunteering is a punishment and help at the same time (Petrucelli, 2010). At first, a young individual considers the obligation to be involved in social work as a punishment only. The next step is realizing that being in a correctional facility together with peers who show even more violent behavior would be worse in all aspects. The final step is realizing that volunteering benefits both one’s physical and mental state.
The majority of troubled teenagers have depression; it could be hidden as well as easily observed. One of the main features of depression is feeling lonely and isolated. Since volunteering implies constant communication with other people, it can dramatically reduce the risk of depression relapse. Taking into account the fact that depression can lead to more serious mental disorders, volunteering can also be considered as one of the prevention measures against mental health issues.
Moreover, volunteering also has a positive impact on self-confidence increase among adolescents. While doing social work, the teenager realizes that he or she is of great benefit to the whole society. For example, by volunteering in the food bank, a young person helps people who are in need and makes a contribution toward their good mood and health condition.
One of the main aspects of volunteering is improving one’s relations with family members. Troubled teenagers often have complicated relationships with their parents or other family members. Participating in volunteering programs, adolescents rise in the estimation of their family members because it implies facilitating the well being of the society in general. Therefore, parents start to see their children as full-fledged society members who are respected by other people.
Also, the emotional spirit among volunteers and in volunteering centers has a profound effect on psychological state of troubled teenagers. They can observe and participate in lives of people who face more serious difficulties, which usually results in dramatic changes in a teenager’s own life perception. Since the vast majority of people compare their life experience to that of other people, they tend to analyze all received information and reach a certain conclusion. Once teenagers face worse situations than those they had in their life, they start to realize that their depressive state is rather groundless, which leads to more positive thoughts.
On the other hand, if a teenager encounters problematic situations of various kinds, he or she understands that people in need are not left alone, and if he/she would face the same problem in the future, society can help to overcome it. The adolescent becomes aware that other people will always care and support him/her whenever he/she needs it and realizes that he/she is a full-blown member of society.
Social Significance of Volunteering
In general, volunteering helps teenagers to gain proper social skills and teaches how to communicate with other peers and adults. At the same time, being a volunteer implies the necessity of acquiring new knowledge and skills that will help the troubled adolescent now and in the future. Daily communication with people of different age, gender, religion, and social status teaches teenagers how to interact properly with all people.
In fact, a large majority of troubled young people do not possess proper communication skills. In their everyday life, they speak the way they want and do not pay attention to fair remarks of adults. Volunteering programs usually imply partial or constant presence of an adult mentor who watches how volunteering teenagers act and behave. Therefore, as provided by these programs, teenagers must always be loyal and polite to others, otherwise they may suffer a punishment. Once teenagers see that polite and loyal communication prepossesses other people more and that communication without offensive words, threats and insults is more pleasant, they start to practice such communication on a constant basis.
Many teenagers with a tendency for violent behavior do not have real friends. They may even not have any friends at all. In most volunteering programs, teenagers do their social work together with peers who have similar problems. Therefore, there is a high chance of finding new friends or meeting new people with common interests. Also, if two friends were appointed to one volunteer group, their friendship may strengthen and, under the influence of volunteering, they both may gain appropriate social and communication skills.
By their nature, teenagers have different characters. Some adolescents are more communicative and opened while others are shy and incommunicable, which may be the reason for their bad attitude and behavior. In their common life, such teenagers has difficulties in meeting and communicating with new people; however, participating in volunteering programs they have to face and talk to new people whether they like it or not. In fact, meeting new people helps teenagers in the present as well as in the future, because they practice their social skills on a daily basis. It will help them in a few years when they start looking for a job. Every new person brings with him or herself new useful and interesting information that one day will help one in their daily life.
One of the most important advantages of volunteering is help with the future career. Most of the teenagers finally decide what profession they want to join at this very period of their lives since volunteering programs imply social work of various kinds, for example, working in food banks, helping in hospitals or libraries, etc. Being engaged in these activities, teenagers face new duties that they would never encounter in their ordinary life, and they gain basic skills in some areas and even improve them by volunteering (Lewis, 2007).
Taking into account the above-mentioned, one can say that volunteering has a number of benefits for troubled teenagers. Since many teenagers lead a mostly unhealthy and stressful life, being under the constant control of mentors in various volunteer programs helps them to improve their physical and mental condition. Also, volunteering plays a significant role in the social life of troubled teenagers by teaching them basic social and certain professional skills.
Volunteer Programs for Troubled Teenagers
There are many volunteer programs for adolescents, which have become essential in improving negative behavior and attitude of young people towards others. Such programs deal with adolescents through different actions and methods, but they all pursue a common goal – to make teenagers more loyal to themselves, other people, and the environment in general.
Volunteering programs can be absolutely different in certain aspects, for example, kind of volunteering, terms, and type. Volunteering can implicate constructing and building, street cleaning and other related types of social work, looking after animals in special facilities, etc. Also, volunteering can be either obligatory or fully based on the teenager’s will. Moreover, some volunteering programs require complete isolation of teenagers from their original social environment while other programs imply only partial visiting of the volunteering places, like going to work.
General Educational Development program implies building classes for teenager volunteers in various poor areas. Under this program, troubled adolescents are taught about building in theory and practice, and may even get a future career. In general, this program refers to anything that deals with architecture and building houses. Therefore, a teenager can choose what kind of labor he or she likes most and achieve success in that particular field (Crow, 2007).
Syracuse’s Teen Court is a very unusual volunteering program that was started in the 1990s. In fact, it implies direct participation of teenagers in passing sentence on other troubled teenagers and, therefore, involvement in various aspects of the trial; for example, they can be jurors or even judges. Moreover, such volunteering program demonstrates possible negative consequences of violent and illegal actions. Under this program, teenagers make final decisions for every case themselves. Moreover, hearing peers say that some actions were unacceptable influences the accused person (teenager) significantly (Gertner, 2005).
Emergency Medical Technicians and Junior Firefighters. It is the first program that allows teenagers to participate in rescuing operations as ambulance drivers and trained health professionals who can perform artificial respiration on unconscious patients and use a defibrillator. In accordance with this volunteering program, teenagers provide serious and important assistance in saving human lives, and their direct participation proves that they are more than average members of society. The same can be said about the junior firefighter program. Teenagers are taught how to manage small fire in cases of house fires and car accidents and save people’s lives. Participating in both these programs plays a significant role in teenagers’ lives since they actively help society and it teaches them to value their own and people’s lives (Lewis, 2007).
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Adolescent Wrong Choice Prevention
Teenagers become troubled for several reasons and certain measures should be taken to improve the whole situation and prevent their negative behavior. The main reasons for a teenager to display bad temper and behavior are strained relations with parents or family members, lack of social skills, low income of the family, poor health condition, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. In many cases, relations with family members, especially with parents, affect the behavior of teenagers. The more unsatisfactory relations are, the more depressed a teenager is. Since parents are primarily responsible for their children, they must take action in order to prevent teenagers from engaging in illegal activities. Showing daily interest in what happens in a young person’s life, constant love and support, and taking direct participation in education and attitude development to prevent teens from feeling unsatisfied, which reduces their chances of abusing alcohol and drugs at young age.
Unfortunately, many teenagers lack basic social skills, which may have various consequences at the moment and in the future. Some adolescents are not communicative and face serious difficulties with making friends or dealing with certain problems. To prevent the teenager from future troublesome situations parents and teachers should pay more attention to all children. In case a teen is reserved and does not want to communicate, they must consult an experienced psychologist, and follow the provided instructions properly.
The same can be applied to low financial income in the family. Everybody knows that some people are rude already in childhood and that children tend to bully their peers who differ from them. In highly developed countries, for example, the USA or Canada, the financial income of the average family is sufficient to satisfy their needs; and if some family is poor, it is usually obvious. Moreover, a child in such a family, especially a teenager, usually feels depressed about the whole situation and due to the constant influence of negative thoughts, he or she may become troubled. In such cases, the best way for parents to prevent problems with teenagers in the future is to discuss the situation with their children explaining reasons why did it happen and what should be done to improve it.
The next possible reason for a teenager to become troubled is poor health condition (Lardas, 2005). When a teenager feels that he or she has obvious differences from other children, there is a high probability of inner disapproval of the situation. Teenagers who have health problems may show aggression toward their peers or display an absolute lack of interest toward them and the environment in general. In such situations, only the help of a professional psychologist can prevent the deterioration of this situation.
Taking into account all the above-mentioned, one can state that negative behavior of teenagers can be both improved and prevented. In fact, almost everything depends on how parents take care of their children and what they do in alarming situations. Also, professional psychologists usually succeed in making teenager’s attitude towards other people more loyal and friendly.
Volunteer programs for troubled teenagers exert a positive impact on their negative behavior. With the ever-changing technology, adolescents have an access to many media products today that can be used poorly mirroring their bad behavior. Moreover, many factors can affect teenagers’ behavior: low social status, poor health conditions, strained relations with family members, etc. All the abovementioned issues can change the identity of a teenager and result in constant depression. In some cases, teenagers become excessively violent or become involved in illegal activities, for example, abusing alcohol or narcotics or stealing. When young people reach this point and become socially dangerous, they should be engaged in various volunteering programs.
Volunteering should not be considered a punishment for bad behavior; on the contrary, it is a tool for helping teenagers to solve their problems. In fact, volunteering assists teenagers in different life aspects, including physical, mental, and social ones. As a rule, the physical health of adolescents improves because of the impossibility of taking alcohol and narcotics as well as being constantly active. The mental condition also improves as a result of volunteering. Teenagers meet new friends and communicate with people of different ages every day. Also, today troubled adolescents need to become involved in volunteering more than ever to improve social skills and patterns of behavior.