You know that phrase your preschooler keeps repeating that you never realized you said so often? Right from birth, kids take their cues from parents — so make sure they see your best side. Show them that acts of caring are part of everyday life. When they’re old enough to understand (and even before), explain why you’re calling to check in on an old friend, running an errand for a neighbour, or making extra soup to bring to an elderly relative. (to read more go to the HuffingtonPost)
A classic study of children watching a violent cartoon showed that those kids who were asked to consider the victim’s feelings found the cartoon less funny and scored lower on measures of post-viewing aggression. Labelling and discussing emotions is the first step to unlocking your child’s innate empathy – encourage them from a young age to name their own feelings and relate to the feelings of others (real others they meet, and imaginary others during make-believe time, like the dragon they just slew).
Get your household chores done and spend quality time with your kids at the same time! Bring your toddler along for laundry, recycling and cooking – work on their learning too by counting cans or catching socks for the dryer. Gradually assign more advanced tasks for them to take on, until one day the garbage has gone out without you noticing!
Our friend Julie moved all her dishes to the bottom shelves in the kitchen so her three kids could set the table without help. At age four, Marc was assigned a small corner of a room we were redecorating and given a pile of wallpaper strips (his rather crooked handiwork was straightened by morning by a mysterious “wallpaper fairy” whose identity remains unknown). When kids feel that their help is needed and welcomed, they gain confidence that they have a contribution to make, and they keep on helping.
We heard just last week about Joey, a dad in suburban Vancouver who was walking home with his five-year-old son Oliver after a morning toboggan run, when they came across an elderly woman struggling to shovel her sidewalk. Joey stopped and borrowed the stranger’s shovel, finishing the job while Oliver assisted using a toy shovel he’d brought to the park. Be on the lookout for ways to go out of your way for someone in need, and your child will take notice. In the same way, if your habit is to “walk on by”, then your kid will, too.
Parents often ask us how to explain homelessness or poverty to their kids without making them feel depressed. We tell them the best antidote to helplessness is action, and the size of the action you take is directly proportionate to the size of your child. Preschoolers may not be ready for a soup kitchen or food bank, but they can turn their Halloween trick-or-treating into a canned food drive. Creative parenting expert Silvana Clark suggests making healthy snack kits for children in women’s shelters (that mom or dad drop off), or donating old toys to local charities helping families in need.
When we first started with school boards to help encourage volunteerism, kids were pretty liberal in what they thought could pass as “volunteering” — bagging groceries at the supermarket, answering the phone at dad’s office, or handing out flyers for a pizzeria. From the time they can sort and count boxes of macaroni and cheese, your kids can volunteer with you by their side. Try different venues — seniors’ homes, animal shelters, park clean-ups — and new ideas to help them find their spark: that issue or group to which they most enjoy contributing their time and energy. Soon they’ll be volunteering without you because they’ve hooked all their friends into doing it with them.
We’re often asked how to convince teenagers to put down the video game console, ball glove, or drumsticks and go volunteer. Why not take those things along? (Well, to a certain extent.) Volunteering won’t be boring if you’re doing something you enjoy. The computer-savvy teen can help the food bank with their website, the athlete can coach a little-league team, and the musician can entertain at the seniors’ home (with age-appropriate tunes, of course). Encouraging your kid to help others by showing off their talents and doing what they love to do is one of the easier sells you’ll have during those, let’s say, reluctant teenage years.
Craig and Marc KielburgerThe Huffington Post Canada