Volunteering with Teenagers

- Kristiana Tarnuzzer


Raising kids is no SMALL challenge…

…Raising preteen and teenagers is a whole new ball game.  This stage of parenting newly independent, often emotional and sometimes rebellious humans can be tough to juggle.  Not to mention, with so much focus on education, social activities, and preparation for college, how can families still make it a priority to give back together, and how can parents form mentalities and habits of giving back in their preteen and teenagers?  We turned to these three mamas who, in our opinion, seriously nail it.


TCB:  How have you instilled a giveback or socially aware mentality in your kids?

NS: By telling stories. Most big social issues like homelessness, equal rights or gun safety are more accessible to my kids when we give them some background by way of a personal story. An even more basic way to connect the dots is to ask them how do you think a person feels when (they’ve lost a home, find out they make less money than someone else with the same job, etc.)? Then we try and make it personal to them by asking how they would feel. More often than not, the kids build the connection to their own good fortune or safety by wanting it for everyone. And it becomes an intrinsic value rather than something we are telling them to do because it’s the “right thing.” This is exactly how our 9-year-old daughter came to organize a lemonade stand for detained immigrant children -- in addition to raising money, she had patrons fill out positive notes to send directly to the kids. 

TCB: What are some examples of ways you offer services or volunteer together with your preteen/teen kids?

NS: We try to keep it local -- by handing out candy canes to senior centers during the holidays or organizing donated goods at Baby2Baby after school. This year we’re trying out a calendar and allowing the kids to pick the causes they most want to support month by month, then doing the research on how and where we can be of service. Also, encouraging them to ask friends to come along is both a great way to develop greater awareness for a cause but also makes it more fun. 

TCB: What cause is most near and dear to your heart?

NS: Because there are real and practical ways of solving the problem, I work with a number of groups. I passionately support sensible gun safety measures of which the majority of Americans are in favor. I’m also a big fan of reproductive rights and equal pay for all. 

TCB: What nonprofits are you most passionate about supporting?

NS: Gun Safety: Everytown (on the Creative Council), Giffords Law, Moms Demand Action, March for Our Lives

Equal Pay: Time’s Up (on the Leadership Board)

Reproductive Rights: Center for Reproductive Rights

Local: Baby2Baby, Los Angeles Public Library

Naomi Scott
Sonia Smith-Kang


TCB: How have you instilled a giveback or socially aware mentality in your kids?

SSK; Growing up in a low socio-economic community, I was very aware of the plight around me. My mom worked 3 jobs to make ends meet and my grandparents worked well beyond retirement age. While we didn’t have very much financially, my family instilled a strong sense of gratitude for what we had and still managed to give back, even if just with our time.

I carry this with me and pass this on to my 4 children. From the moment they were born, they were integrated into a family who pretty much runs like a business in that our family has a mission and vision.

As a multiracial, multicultural and multilingual family, we are socially aware of what is happening around us. We believe in diversity and inclusivity issues and live an intentional life. We bring in products, books, movies, etc. that reflect our multicultural reality. Our children are taught to look around them and identify what is happening in our world and how we can all play a part in creating a world we would like to see.

TCB: What are some examples of ways you offer services or volunteer together with your preteen/teen kids?

SSK: Like most families, we are super busy, but we streamline our giving back into what we are already doing so it’s a seamless process. We travel a great deal for work so we come back with hotel toiletries that can easily be placed in a Ziploc and handed out to those less fortunate. Making school lunches? Add a sandwich or two and hand out when you’re on a fwy off-ramp. Getting ready for the new school year by getting rid of out-grown clothes? Put gently used clothes in bags for shelters. The key is to get my kids involved and thinking about others in the process.

My eldest daughter has special needs and plays baseball at our local little league field. My son, a baseball player, volunteers his time with them by pushing their wheelchairs or helping them shag balls.

Giving back shouldn’t be a chore.  Just look to what you are already doing and see how your family can make a difference.

TCB: What cause is most near and dear to your heart?

SSK: Equality, equity, diversity and inclusion.

TCB: What nonprofits are you most passionate about supporting?

SSK: As president of Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC), a 501c3, I was drawn to their vision to celebrate multiracial identity in a racially inclusive world and a mission to advocate for and foster multiracial community and identity. With this vision and mission in mind, MASC creates activities and designs programs to educate, advocate for, and promote social justice for the multiracial community and increase awareness and understanding amongst the public about multiracial/multiethnic issues.

And as a mom of 4, I know how powerful we are which is why I support MomsRising.org.  They take on the most critical issues facing women, mothers, and families by educating the public and mobilizing massive grassroots actions to:

Bring the voices and real-world experiences of women and mothers straight to our local, state, and nation's leaders;

Amplify women's voices and policy issues in the national dialogue & in the media across all platforms (from print, to radio, to blogs, social media, and more);

Accelerate grassroots impact on Capitol Hill and at state capitols across the country;

Hold corporations accountable for fair treatment of women and mothers & for ensuring the safety of their products.


MEET Sarah Hines Communications Director at UPPAbaby

TCB: How have you instilled a giveback or socially aware mentality in your kids?

SH: The importance of appreciating what you have and giving back has always been something I am very passionate about and committed to instilling in my two kids, Olivia (14 yrs.) and Cole (12 yrs.). We live in a small town on the south shore of Boston and are blessed to have a comfortable lifestyle through hard work and dedication. 

Whether it’s daily routines, work ethic or giving back, I truly believe that leading by example is the best way to be true and pass on your values. Volunteering and giving back are things that were  instilled in me as a child and feel it’s equally important to pass on to them. 

I remember my mom volunteering at a non-profit called the Family Inn when I was in elementary school. This haven provided accommodations to families who had children hospitalized in Boston. 

I feel that whether it’s volunteering time, goods or money there are always ways you can help someone that is less fortunate than and I’ve instilled this in my kids leading by example. 

TCB: What are some examples of ways you offer services or volunteer together with your preteen/teen kids?

SH: One of the things I struggled with early on was finding charities that the kids could participate in when they were younger, so we did the best we could. From early on we did basic pay it forward activities like donating clothes, toys, and food through various organizations. 

The first time I really saw something resonate with them is when they were seven years old and five years old. We adopted a family for Christmas, and the kids read the families Christmas wish list and some of the items were pretty basic for everyday living. I saw them take it in and add some items above and beyond the list that made them happy and they wanted to pass on to that family as a “surprise”. That moment was a “feel good” moment and I knew that I wanted to continue the momentum because giving to others just feels great -- and the fact they caught that feeling, was pretty amazing to me.

Since then, Olivia and Cole are part of the Room to Grow Junior Ambassador Program where they participate amongst peers, but we also volunteer as a family. Room to Grow is an amazing full family support system that is dedicated to enriching the lives of babies born into poverty throughout their critical first three years of development. Some of the activities we do besides donating goods, is donating time and sorting clothes, toys, and organizing the Room to Grow shop, where families go to shop for items following their regular check-ins. 

Another charitable activity we do as a family is the Boston MS Climb to the Top at 200 Clarendon Street (formerly known at the John Hancock Tower). We raise funds to climb the 62 flights together as a family (although Olivia and Cole now completely smoke me). ☺ 

TCB: What cause is most near and dear to your heart?

There are a few causes near and dear to my heart. Room to Grow (mentioned above) and Good+ Foundation, a non-profit founded by Jessica Seinfeld that providing education, mentoring, essential items and resources to families in need.

Over the past five years, I’ve become more involved in a Boston-based national organization called Team Impact, a non-profit that connects children facing serious and chronic illnesses with college athletic teams, forming life-long bonds and life-changing outcomes. 

TCB: What nonprofits are you most passionate about supporting?

SH: The nonprofits I’m most passionate about supporting are the ones that I feel like I can make the biggest impact and provide value. I also love when Olivia and Cole can be involved with me. 

Team Impact is one that I will continue to be involved in and hope to grow my involvement alongside my kids with events they host including draft days for kids being brought onto a collegiate athletic team, support and any other ways we can help Team Impact as they grow and serve families. 

What I find is that while we volunteer, spend time, help where we can, the relationships and experiences we have far surpass what we give. To me that is priceless and hard to even put into words. The experiences and relationships impact us and help us navigate our own journey with new perspective, which to me is just the coolest thing you can do personally, but also as a mom.  

Sarah Hinesm