Think back to when you were 12 years old. Where did you live? Do you remember what your bedroom looked like? Who was your best friend? What did you like to do? Eat? Wear? This may be an easier exercise for some of you than others.
Now think about an adult who had a positive impact on your life during that time – that was seventh grade. This adult may have been a parent, a neighbor, a coach, someone at church, a boy or girl scout leader, an aunt or uncle, a teacher or maybe even a 4-H leader.
What was it that this adult did that was important for you? Did he challenge you to work hard? Give you a safe place to hang out? Teach you? Guide you? Make sure you had food for the weekend? Influence your career choice? Did she encourage you?
Research by the Search Institute shows that youth need adults other than their parents to turn to for advice and support. Those things that the influential adult in your life did for you are precisely the things you can do for some other young person. Here are some ideas presented by the Search Institute:
• Give your children opportunities to spend time with other adults – trusted neighbors, favorite teachers or relatives they feel comfortable with and like being around.
• Take family vacations with other families.
• When you invite friends over for social occasions, include your children and theirs in your plans and your conversations.
• Get to know your children’s friends. Welcome them into your home.
• Build at least one sustained, caring relationship with a child or adolescent, either informally or through a community program. Talk with kids who live near you or work with you.
• At church, sponsor a congregational mentoring program or plan intergenerational programs and events so kids and adults can get to know each other.
What you do doesn’t have to take a lot of time or commitment, but it can make a big difference for a young person. So, maybe you don’t have time right now to think about being 12 years old, but maybe you will ponder who made a difference for you tonight while you’re washing the dishes, taking out the trash or just before you fall asleep.
Think about it today and then start making a difference tomorrow.
If you’d like to do something for youth but just don’t know what, give me a call at 586-4009. We may have some 4-H volunteer opportunities or I can help direct you to other programs in the community that could use your help.
Heather Gordon is 4-H agent for Jackson County.