ACTIVITIES CAN BE BOON TO TEENS
Debbie Glasser, Special to The Miami Herald
Drama. Soccer. Debate. Any of these activities has the potential
to contribute to a teen's social and personal growth. But according
a recently published study, there's one after-school experience
that promotes higher rates of personal and interpersonal growth
among teens than any other activity.
at the University of Illinois have identified faith-based youth
groups as the extracurricular activity that most significantly contributes
to teens' identity development and positive relationships with others.
In fact, teens in the study rated religious groups higher than sports,
performance groups, academic clubs and community service groups
like scouting, according to Reed Larson, chairman of Family Resiliency
at the university.
is a period of identity development, when teens are sorting out
their values and thinking about their future and where they fit
in the world,'' said Larson in a telephone interview from his office
in Urbana. "Faith-based
youth groups provide a logical venue for these kinds of explorations.''
said that while extracurricular groups can provide important social
and academic opportunities for teens, religious youth groups are
unique because they create a context for kids to talk about their
values and what they believe in.
doesn't necessarily occur when kids are hanging out with friends
at school or on a sports field,'' he said.
to Larson, teens are hungry for these kinds of discussions.
and spirituality are important to a majority of young people,''
Larson said. He cited one study in which 95 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds
say they believe in God, and 75 percent of teens say they try to
follow the traditions and beliefs of their religion.
social groups are embedded within a larger organization - like a
church, synagogue, or mosque, children can talk about their faith
under the umbrella of a belief system that is meaningful to them,''
and his colleagues discovered that teens in faith-based youth groups
reported increased personal growth and improved relationships with
peers, parents and others in the community.
phenomenon occurred across all religions and denominations,'' Larson
findings come as no surprise to Lauren Marks- Cabanas, program director
and youth group advisor at Temple Dor Dorim in Weston. "Kids
often join a religious youth group because it's fun and social -
and that's great,'' she said. "But they can gain much more
participating with peers in activities like social action projects,
community service and religious events, teens have opportunities
to think about who they are and what's important to them.
key,'' Marks-Cabanas said.
your child expresses an interest in joining a faith-based youth
group, seek recommendations from other parents and families, Larson
suggested. And be sure that the group will be appropriately supervised.
tip: "Look for youth groups in which the leaders give teens
some level of choice, ownership and decision-making in the programs,''
Larson said. "This facilitates the growth experience.''
more information, go to the Center for Spiritual Development in
Children and Adolescence, a project of the Search Institute's Healthy
Communities/Healthy Youth Initiative: www.SpiritualDevelopmentCenter.org.
Debbie Glasser, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and founder of
NewsForParents.org, an online newsletter for parents. She can be
reached at debbie@NewsForParents.org.
Copyright (c) 2006 The Miami Herald
Published: November 16, 2006