Raising a teenager under any circumstance is a difficult task. As parents, we want what is best for our children, and so we try to instill positive values in them. One of the lessons that children learn early on is to ‘treat others as you would like to be treated.’ In other words, we try to teach our children to be altruistic. Being altruistic, or reaching out to help others, not only benefits the person being helped, but it also has many benefits for the person doing the helping.


In the study, “In the Course of a Lifetime,” published by University of California Press, social scientists followed adolescents born in the 1920s for 50 years and found that those who were altruistic as teenagers were happier and healthier in the long run. This finding, however, should not be that surprising. People who are altruistic have healthier hearts, are less depressed, have higher self-esteem, and are usually more successful.


Changing the way your child thinks and behaves can seem like an almost impossible task, but it doesn’t have to be. Encouraging a giving nature in your teenager not only benefits society, but it helps your child develop the necessary skills to be happy and successful in life. Since our culture promotes individualism, many teenagers in our society grow up to be self-centered and selfish. Incorporating good morals into your child’s rearing can help prevent this one-sided way of thinking, and help them become more involved with others. Furthermore, putting the needs of others ahead of your own helps many people find a sense of direction and bring a purpose to life.  


According to researchers, we feel good when we help others because we get a “helper’s high,” or a distinct physical sensation associated with helping. People who experience the “helper’s high” report that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others; some people also report feeling calmer and less depressed. Teaching altruism to your children is a great tool that they can use for the rest of their lives. All of the things that are associated with altruism, such as empathy and compassion, are big parts of social intelligence.


How do you nurture a helping spirit in your teenager? For starters, you should always be a role model. If you do good, your kids will also do good. If your teenager sees you helping out others, he will likely do the same throughout his life. There are many ways of giving back and volunteering. It can be as simple as cleaning out your closets and bringing extra clothes to the Goodwill, Salvation Army or a thrift shop. Local hospitals, schools and animal shelters are usually always looking for more volunteers. No matter how to help out, it will make a positive difference for everyone involved.