It’s safe to say that if you have children in your life, you want to help them become children who think about others – children who don’t become adults who think the world revolves around them. We watch society become increasingly more self-centered and most of us don’t want to raise selfish adults. So, how do we keep this from happening? For most children, the world DOES revolve around them. Meals are prepared for them, laundry is done for them, toys magically appear for them, books are read to them, games are played with them (and most often, they win). Kids’ worlds are small. So, how do we grow their world AND help them become compassionate, caring individuals? And, how do you do it without becoming overwhelmed at adding another thing to your “To Do” list. The answer is quite simple – do little things that will have a big impact and grow kindness!
- Start a “Change for Change” Jar – Have your child(ren) decorate a jar that your family will commit to fill. You can identify a charity that you will donate it to at the end of the month/quarter/year. You can choose a new charity each month/quarter/year so that each member of your family has a chance to identify a charity that’s near and dear. These are great to do with local charities because you can usually call and have a chance to meet with the director to make your donation. Your kids can see where the money is actually going. If you have time, roll the change. A change rolling kit is usually easy for kids to use. It can be a math lesson, too!
- Pick Up Litter– Anytime you’re out and about and notice litter on the ground, pick it up. Encourage children to do the same – just keep the hand sanitizer handy!
- Visit a Nursing Home – This one is either easy or tough. If it’s tough for you, read on for other options. Nursing home residents LOVE children. Most nursing homes’ staff love to have children come in. If you chose to do this, prepare the children. Often, there are residents whose level of awareness is challenged and that can be frightening to children. If you decide to do this one, call ahead and have the staff recommend a time to visit. Often they can recommend additional ideas for activities as well.
- Stock the Food Pantry – The next time you’re grocery shopping with kids, have them help choose items for your local pantry. Use this as an opportunity to talk to them about how some children don’t always have a full refrigerator and a snack cabinet. Then, drop the food off on your way home from the store.
- Do a Charity Walk – Adults are suckers for a kid raising money for charity. Identify a charity having a walk and sign your child up. Most organizations have fundraising packets for all of their participants. All that’s left is to have children talk to some adults (grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, etc) about how they can help. This is a great opportunity for children to also practice their conversation skills and manners.
- Show Kindness – When you’re out and about with kids, let them see you being kind to others. It gets hectic managing little ones while trying to shop/run errands/etc, but showing kindness takes no extra time. If you’re at the drive-thru, smile at the attendant. If you’re at a store, exchange pleasantries with the cashier. Hold the door for an elderly person. Help someone in a wheelchair reach something on a high shelf. Just show kindness. If kids see you doing it, they’ll do it, too. Just as they will copy bad behavior, they’ll copy good.
- Research local volunteer opportunities! – When all else fails, turn to the internet! Here’s a great place to start — Volunteermatch.org is a wonderful resource for finding volunteer opportunities that suit your available time, your age, your geographic region, and your interests. So, if you know you’ll have time to volunteer 3 weeks from now on a Tuesday morning from 8am-11:15am, volunteermatch.org can help find an opportunity in your area.
Keep it fun. Keep it simple. In the immortal words of Nike, “Just do it.” You don’t have to do everything. You don’t even need to do something on this list. Find something that seems to naturally fit with your family. You won’t regret it!
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