Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Guest Post: Helping Kids Help Others

Disclosure: I am not the author of this post nor was I compensated for this post. 
Helping Kids Help Others
Author: Whitney Hollingshead

When you think of helping others, you may think of big acts of service. For example, volunteering at a homeless shelter, helping someone move, or donating money to a charity. Maybe you think of businesses or organizations helping various causes.
Johnny McCoy is committed to using his business, Knotty Alder Cabinets, to help people in his community. While Johnny has been involved in many large scale projects, he insists that everyone can make a difference. According to Johnny, small acts of kindness are never small. This means that everyone can make a difference, including children.
With this idea in mind, what are some acts of kindness that you can set in motion to teach your children to help others? If you are looking for some creative ideas that will bring helping others into your home and neighborhood, keep reading.
Here are 4 fun ideas that you can use to teach your family about the satisfaction that comes in helping others:
Love Note Week
Think of this fun activity as Valentine’s Day in the middle of the year for the whole family. Set aside one evening for love note writing. You can break out as many paper and writing utensil options as you like. Have each family member write a special love note for every other family member. Once all of the notes are finished, then the real fun begins.
The entire family has the rest of the week to hide the love notes they wrote for each person in a place where that person is likely to find the note. For example, you can put the note on someone’s pillow, in the drawer next to their hairbrush, or taped to their car steering wheel.
You may need to remind your family members to keep hiding their notes during the week. If you have small children, you can help them hide each of the notes.
Make a Sack Lunch
Have your child help you make a sack lunch for another family member who eats lunch away from home. You can ask the child for suggestions on what to pack in the lunch. Make sure you oversee the process so that your child doesn’t make a sandwich with an inch of mayo or fill a ziploc bag with brown sugar.
For some extra fun, break out the cookie cutters and use them to cut the lunch you are making into fun shapes. Simple sandwiches, pieces of fruit, and sliced cheese work great with cookie cutters.
If you have enough time, have your child draw a simple picture to include in the lunch.
Help a Neighbor
Tell your child that you think it would be a good idea if you worked together to help a neighbor. Ask your child which neighbor they think could use some help. Once they choose a neighbor, ask them for ideas of ways that you can both help the chosen neighbor.
You will most likely be surprised at the suggestions your child will make. If they happen to offer silly ideas too, don’t criticize any idea in any way. Instead suggest, “That’s one idea. Let’s see if we can think of a few more ideas.”
If your child doesn’t offer any ideas, give them suggestions and let them make the final choice. You may suggest making cookies, walking their dog, bringing their garbage cans in from the curb, or drawing them a special picture.
If by some chance your child chooses a neighbor that is not at the top of your list, don’t tell your child to pick someone else. Make sure that the way they want to help is appropriate. Accompany your child to visit the neighbor. If you are uncomfortable talking to the neighbor, you can always use the excuse that your child really wanted to bring them something and you are just there to support them. The one key exception is if you do not feel safe having your child near a particular neighbor. If that’s the case, gently suggest a safer candidate.
Send a Note of Encouragement
Select someone that your family knows who is currently facing a difficult challenge. If you can’t think of anyone you know personally, think of people in your community, or read the newspaper to find someone who could use some encouragement. You may want to consider someone who has had a recent death in their family, been diagnosed with a major illness, has a family member in the military, recently lost a job, or is living alone.
You can involve the whole family in making or selecting the perfect card to send to the chosen person or family. Ask your children for suggestions on what you can say in the note that would make the other person happy to read your card.
If the chosen person or family is struggling with a particular challenge that you don’t want to talk about in front of your children, you can use general terms instead. For example, you might say, “Our friends had a bad day recently. Let’s send them a note to brighten their day.”
Sending notes of encouragement regularly will get your children in the mindset of considering who they could encourage by sending a note. This is one great way to train your children to think about others.
Use these ideas to get your family thinking about other ways that they can help the people they know. Establishing a tradition of helping in your family will guide your children to look beyond their own problems and reach out to others.

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