I worked at a Boys and Girls Club in my hometown throughout my senior year of high school. Now that I've started my first year of college, I can't be there all the time but I go back and work at the same club over breaks.
When I was hired, my boss told me and all the other employees how important we were in these kids' lives; we had the power to be positive role models for kids who didn't have one. That was the reason I had decided to apply for the job in the first place: I wanted to help create a fun, safe environment for the youth. What my boss didn't tell us was that the kids we were going to be working with would change our lives for the better, too, and here's how:
They can help you expand your horizons, thinking and opinions.
If you've ever talked to kids before, you know there's really no such thing as a "normal" conversation. They'll say the weirdest things and give the weirdest explanations for them, but that doesn't mean they're always wrong. Sometimes, you'll get a kid who says something that seems really bizarre, but when you stop to think about it they actually have a point. Maybe they don't completely change your opinion, but they definitely give you something to think about.
They help you embrace your inner child.
Some of the best parts of being young are getting to run wild and free, playing make-believe or with dolls, building with Legos, coloring and so much more. When you work somewhere like a Boys and Girls Club, it's your job to make sure that the youth are not only safe and learning, but also to connect with them. There's no better way to make that connection than to get in touch with your inner child. This is also a great stress reliever; I know working with kids sounds like it's more stress-inducing than -reducing, and it can be, but it's good to have a place to feel young and blissful again.
They’re amazing mood and self-esteem boosters.
After a long day of school or work, nothing beats having a group of kids so excited to see you that they run to you and give you a huge hug. When it's free time or they're given time to color, at least half the kids will draw a picture or write a message for their favorite adult in the room, showing you how much they appreciate you. And when you draw or write something for them in return, they never fail to say how perfect they think it is and how happy it makes them.
You’re free to be yourself, because they’re head over heels for the real you.
While in many other instances throughout your routine week or day you may have to put on a facade or act in a way that isn't really you, you never have to be anyone but your real self with kids. They love the quirky, goofy person that's inside most of us. They love the people that make bad jokes or puns just to try and get them to laugh. They love the guy that plays the same video games as them and will have long conversations about them. Just like they love the girl who's interested in conspiracy theories and will tell them a new one every time she sees them. And the guy who walks into a room and lightly hits them on the head with a piece paper while making a weird noise and then walks out again. Whatever it is that sets you apart from other people, they never seem to have trouble embracing it.
Working with kids can have its challenges, just like any job, and I can only hope that I'm making a positive impact on their lives when I visit over school breaks, but I know for a fact those kids have changed my life for the better.