4. Your child should not be at an advantage because you are present.
Treat your child as you would any other youth participant. Do not allow your child access to you, adult spaces, or restricted items (electronic devices, snacks, etc.) that other youth participants do not have access to. Do not give your child permission to opt out of mandatory activities or allow them to voice disinterest or frustration to you during the event. If your child makes a request or has a complaint or concern, redirect them to other adults (or youth leaders) for answers and assistance.
5. Your child should not be at a disadvantage because you are present.
Maintain a low profile as a parent. The goal of most youth-focused events is for young people to grow in personal and independent understanding of their own faith, through relationships with their peers. Give your child the space to engage with other young people and adults without your intervention.
- In group discussions, allow your teen the freedom to speak without you clarifying or responding to what they say.
- When electives are available, allow your teen to choose without your influence.
- When adults are assigned responsibility for groups of kids, try to arrange so your child is in another group. That allows them the freedom to experience the activity in the same way as their peers.
- If you think your teen needs redirecting or reprimanding, first allow other adults to assess and address the situation.
6. Step up and step in.
If the group leader doesn’t provide clear direction about expectations for youth group chaperones, ask. Do your best to fulfill the role they ask you to play, whether it’s to take charge of a particular task or merely be a reassuring background presence.
Throughout the event, youth leaders will appreciate a sincere “Do you need me to do anything?” Offer your assistance frequently, but also respect directions to step back, especially for activities that youth are to lead.
7. Stay put and be present.
Although it’s tempting to view a youth excursion as a retreat from your daily life, you must remain present and engaged. Unless the group leader specifically says you have free time to nap, read, or check your email, stay present and focused. During youth free time, ask the group leader what supervision is required and what the kids are permitted to do.
Free time for young people is not free time for youth group chaperones. Unstructured youth activities often require additional adult oversight! If, for any reason, you must separate from the group or leave the group’s location, make sure the leader is aware of your actions and can provide other adults to assume your responsibility.
8. Be safe.
Keep safety at the forefront of everything you do as youth group chaperones. If you have concerns, raise them privately and immediately with the leader. Be diligent in collecting and maintaining permission forms and medical releases. Make sure you have copies of emergency contact information for any kids assigned to you.
Provide the leader with your own emergency contact information and details about any medical conditions, including a list of any medications you take. If you have privacy concerns, put this in a sealed envelope with your name on it, to be opened only in case of emergency.
9. Be positive.
Adults have more influence on young people than they often realize, especially when those young people are teens! If you positively engage in activities or provide positive encouragement to youth, the group will have a better experience. If you have questions or doubt the purpose of any activities, address them privately with the group leader, always with the intention of how you might make the group experience better.
10. Get to know the kids.
This is the most important tip of all. Adult chaperones who sincerely engage with young people are blessed with the gift of seeing the world through exuberant young eyes. Plus, they get to better know and understand their child’s peer cohort. Volunteering can be exhausting and energizing, maddening and inspiring. But there’s simply nothing else like immersing yourself, as an adult, into a group of young people.
One last suggestion: Make sure to schedule a nap for when you get home!
This article about parents as youth group chaperones originally appeared here.