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How to help youth seek appropriate social activities

Many of our youth have a strong desire to spend lots of time with young people their own age. With our children, most often they have wanted and needed a place where they could go and have fun but wasn't expensive. That place has been our home. When our children were young we knew we wanted a place where they could bring friends and have fun.

Most of our children's high school dance dates have either begun or ended in our home. Dinners here on those special nights have ranged from candlelight and china in front of the fireplace to indoor picnics complete with plastic butterflies and ants, kites hanging from the ceiling, and lanterns on the tables. Pumpkin carving, cake decorating, Easter egg dying, and creative contraption building contests have been part of the fun.Hosting such events is a learning, growing experience for a young person. We talk over activities and the time frames. Our children have learned to lead games and other activities, organize others in dishing up and serving refreshments, and keep even the less-structured time a positive experience.

Many planned evenings have included an array of games. We keep the simple props in a game cupboard nearby. We like it, too, when young people drop by after games or firesides. It takes a little -- but not a lot -- of being ready in order to have a crowd. We strive for the following:

Our home isn't spotless, but we try to keep it clean and orderly enough so that our children feel free to bring people any time.

Ice cream and popcorn have been easy for us to keep on hand to serve at a moment's notice.

Songbooks are close by for singing around the piano.

A collection of old-fashioned videos, a VCR and TV are also nearby.

Volleyball and badminton equipment are available, too.

Filling a home often with a host of young people is the best way we know to keep close as a family as children grow older. Fortunately, our children have always had wonderful friends. Maybe we feel that way because they are our friends, too. -- Karen C. Luthy, North Logan, Utah