A Helping Hand: Raising Kids Who Give More Than They Take
Raising Kids Who Give More Than They Take
Buy this! Take that! Seeing so many images, videos and messages of egotism and consumption spread throughout our daily world disturbs me as a parent. Now more than ever, teaching our children early and often that giving is so much better than receiving is so important—and if we can lead by example, even better. But it isn’t an easy proposition. We’re all bogged down with sports, activities, family, birthday parties, holidays and the daily grind of life. However, in the end, showing our children that we can put our community first teaches them a valuable lesson: We’re all in this together. Here’s how to start.
Talented tots and teens
Volunteering is most successful when passion motivates the person doing it. Look at your family objectively and see what talents and passions could parlay into helping the community. Is your family super musical? Reach out to local assisted living establishments and volunteer to sing to the residents. A simple one-hour performance will stay with them for days and weeks to come. Some civic-minded vocal coaches even encourage these types of performances to prepare young singers and dancers for upcoming auditions and to build confidence. After all, if your child can perform in front of a room full of elderly strangers, she can surely perform in front of a musical director. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Not only are we battling cynicism and egos currently, but obesity and dwindling self-esteem are growing problems, too. Not surprisingly, these problems go hand in hand. More and more children are spending an exorbitant amount of time sitting on the couch, staring at their phones, comparing themselves to people they’ve never met. Why not combat that lack of energy and sign up for a 5k that donates entry fees to a local charity? Decide as a family what you’d like to change in the world and find a 5k that matches it. Fight the urge to just pick a 5k because it’s available. Use this as an opportunity to discuss the world. Then pick a date a few weeks or even months down the road and mark it on the calendar. Start making short practice runs to build endurance, making it a priority never to skip a practice. When the event arrives, make a day of it. Dress in silly costumes, run your hearts out and know you made a difference.
With older kids who might have jobs or tweens who perform odd jobs for cash, consider discussing donations. Nothing is more important to kids than their hard-earned dough, but if they see how direct donations can help, they may want to contribute that way. Just be careful that donating doesn’t turn into an easy way for them to “check the box” on charity. Think about offering cash in addition to performing another service that involves in-person work.
Take yourself out of it
Let’s be honest. Kids sometimes don’t want to listen to parents. Depending on their age, approaching a child about giving back to the community might seem to them like a lame excuse for spending more time together (a fate worse than death, I’m sure). So take yourself out of the equation. Groups like the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Junior Achievement, 4-H and local church youth groups are all civically aware and encourage—if not require—volunteering. Couple involvement with making new friends and having a good time, and your kids will soon be giving back to their community without even realizing it!
Raise Your Voice
In these highly volatile times, a strong voice can be so much more impactful than a donation. Talk to your kids, even the youngest ones, and discuss what injustices affect them. If they have a friend being bullied, encourage them to stand up for what’s right and act by speaking to a principal. If something is bothering them that is controlled by legislators, encourage them to write letters or email. Help them draft their notes and send them together, then follow up if necessary. More often than not, a return letter will come, and your children will know that their voice had an effect, even if it was small.
We all want to raise our kids to be generous, thoughtful and giving of their time and talents. To fully integrate this way of thinking, stay consistent day over day, year over year. In other words, a quick stop at Toys for Tots shouldn’t—and isn’t—going to cut it. As parents in the community, we have the responsibility to actively seek out new ways to make a difference. If we take the lead, they will follow.
Top Places to Start Volunteering with your child TODAY:
- Libraries: Send your bookworm to a place where words are king. At the very least, she’ll learn to alphabetize!
- Animal Shelters: Shelters are often closed or short staffed, and the dogs don’t get walked as much as they should. Ask whether you and your child can help rectify that. (Hint: This also could lead to a future paid job as a dog walker for your child!)
- Food Pantries: Go to the grocery store with your children and purchase their favorite nonperishables to donate to the food pantry. At the very least, this activity can start a conversation that leads to further endeavors.
- Assisted Living: The elderly are frequently overlooked and would be thrilled to have a visitor, even for half an hour. Be age-sensitive on this, though. A toddler isn’t an appropriate visitor; a teen or tween is the perfect age.
Kim Antisdel is a freelance writer and interior design sales rep for KC. She lives in Liberty with her husband, stepdaughters and toddler son.