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How to Give Back

Photo by  Sandrachile  on  Unsplash

Photo by Sandrachile on Unsplash

Summer may be all about fun, but with a little extra time on your hands, it's also the perfect opportunity to give back to your community with your tween. The suggestion to volunteer may elicit groans and sighs, but encouraging participation can promote critical thinking skills, empathy, social awareness and self-confidence in your tween. Finding fun ways to get involved is possible by browsing VolunteerMatch.org or visiting local non-profits to learn about opportunities for youth. Many will require parental participation as well, so make it a family affair and show your tween that giving to those in need is a lifetime endeavor! To learn more about how volunteering positively impacts young people, visit Psychology Today.

Here are a few of our favorite spots to get you started. Enlisting your tween's help in selecting a location and activity will help ensure that the experience is rewarding for the whole family!

  • Volunteers 8 years and older are welcome at the Capital Area Food Bank

  • Austin Habitat for Humanity often needs youth to provide lunches to volunteer sites

  • Planning a beach trip this fall? September 22 is Texas Adopt-a-Beach Day and there are many ways you can help!

  • Caritas encourages families to host their own food drive to help stock their pantries

  • At the Ronald McDonald House, warm meals are always welcome

  • Befriend a neighbor in need and deliver meals, spruce up the front yard, walk the dog or offer to pitch in around the house

  • Host a lemonade stand or garage sale and donate the proceeds to your tween's favorite non-profit

  • Clean out the closets and take gently used clothes to the Austin Children's Shelter

The Upside to Downtime

How many times have you hear yourself respond to a simple "How have you been?" with something along the lines of "Busy, but good!" There's an element of pride to this constant state of busyness, mixed with a desire to seem productive, sought after, the opposite of lazy. There's the need to reassure oneself and others that our time is not idle, that we are making the most of each day. The irony is that the act of maintaining a constant state of busy can get in the way of living in the moment and slowing down to appreciate the here and now.

High schools in particular champion the busy mindset, and lead us to think that downtime is wasted time. We push ourselves and our teens to do more, achieve more and stay constantly on the go.  After-school activities, sports, clubs, committees and more can take up precious evening hours after school. While our interests and hobbies are worth pursuing, and of value, the key to maintaining one's sanity through all the busyness is balance. 

Balance is the act of placing as much value on unhurried, unscheduled free time as we place on the various tasks at hand. Balance means letting ourselves off the hook when we decide not to take on one more commitment, choosing to stay home on a Saturday night with a good movie instead of going out. Balance looks different to everyone, but the essence of it remains universal. That we strive to value all facets our time and make room in our lives for the decidedly un-busy act of slowing down and letting go.

As with most things in life, the balancing act is a practice and a journey, not a final destination. Each day we learn new ways to let go of busy and embrace idle.  How will you find the upside to downtime?

Put Play on Your To-Do List!

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When we talk about the importance of play, we typically talk about ensuring younger children have access to recess or free time during their school week, but play is an essential part of our well-being at any age. Unfortunately, busy schedules for teens and adults can cause us to put off playtime indefinitely as we rush around putting out fires in our daily lives. In our go-go-go world, play is often seen as a frivolous and unproductive activity. We have a tendency to feel guilty for indulging in playful activities when there are tasks to be tackled. But having time to play is essential to leading a healthy, productive life in the long run. A raucous game of kickball may not help you cross anything off your massive to-do list, but it’s a more productive use of time than you might think.

Play releases endorphins, which relieve stress, anxiety and lift your mood in general. It also improves brain function by boosting memory, problem-solving skills and creativity. Play helps you be fully present in the moment, providing you with a much needed break from daily stressors or worries. And playing with others strengthens relationships, fosters empathy and trust, and can be an effective way to overcome past hurts. Family play encourages bonding - making family relationships stronger and increasing family resilience. Play is an important tool you can use to increase your overall sense of well-being, as well as to nourish the important relationships in your life and increase the wellness of those around you. Consider making it a goal to work more play into your life by: 

  • Giving yourself permission to play: Acknowledge that even when faced with many other obligations, you deserve the opportunity to care for yourself. Tapping into the rejuvenating nature of play is one way to do just that.

  • Finding your own kind of fun: Know that play looks different to different people, and follow your own interests and passions.

  • Scheduling play: Actively reserving space in your week for play can help keep other obligations from sidetracking your fun.

  • Invite others: Strengthen relationships by playing with friends and family, and build community by finding others with similar play interests.

  • Arrange outings dedicated entirely to play: Trips to the pool or park, where you can’t be distracted by things that need to get done around the house, or technology like iPhones and televisions (which can get in the way of more fully-involved play) help you give playtime the priority it deserves in your life.

  • Explore an interest or revive an old hobby: Give yourself the gift of time spent doing something you love, or exploring something you're curious about. Remember that play isn’t about the product, but the process, so it’s okay if you turn out to be the world’s worst knitter as long as you enjoyed the experience.

  • Adopt a playful attitude: Be open to joking with co-workers, or even strangers waiting in line with you at the post office. Sometimes even a small personal connection while running errands can bring an unexpected amount of joy into your day, as well as someone else’s.

  • Seek guidance from the masters: Feel like your play skills are a little rusty? Younger children and animals are usually more than happy to remind you how to embrace playtime in your life.

Original video from http://www.dogwork.com where you can also adopt homeless animals.