Our thoughts are with the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. While the hurricanes and the aftermaths were tragic and destructive, we have also seen the best of Americans: helping one another. Donations of money and materials have poured in from both government and private sources. We’ve seen neighbors helping neighbors, selflessly, with no thought of ethnic or social differences. It has been a unique opportunity for all of us, and our children, to see what it means to help others in need.
Parents Model Helping to Children
While Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are fresh on our minds, here are five ways parents can inspire and model a helping hand to your kids:
- Even small kids and small change can make a difference. Helping others can seem like a daunting task, especially when the damage is so great. However, every bit counts. Kids can participate in contributing to the greater cause with what they can “afford”. Children can find coins lying around the house or in parents’ pockets at the end of the day. Explain the need to help others and make a challenge to deposit change in a small jar designated for donations. You and the child can make contributions. Once the jar is full, you can help your child transfer their donation to your choice charity organization.
- Volunteer as a family. There are several organizations in New Jersey that assist people in need. Whether it’s helping box up donations for the hurricane victims or serving food for the hungry, there are always opportunities to volunteer with plenty of organizations happy to have children come alongside the effort. Volunteering doesn’t have to be officially for an organization though. It can include taking a walk to pick up litter or helping a neighbor with yard work. Whatever it is you aim to volunteer to do, find a way to involve your child.
- Send a note of encouragement. People like to know that someone cares about them. Drawing pictures and making cards for people isn’t a lost art in our technological world. Parents can help their children find people to encourage through an organization, religious institution, or even a social media platform. Kids in children’s hospitals, the unvisited elderly in nursing homes, and men and women in uniform are all great places to start with sending cards and notes of encouragement. Let your child and you imagine together who needs that good word and how to deliver the message, then do it!
- Make a donation of goods. Schedule a time to collect things around the house that are gently used and make an effort as a family to donate to a charity like Boys and Girls Club, Goodwill, or the Salvation Army. As inexpensive as this type of help can be, it is often the hardest since it involves sacrificially separating from your own things. If you decide to have your child help in making a donation of their own toys or clothes, be sure to let it be his or her own choice—modeled after your own giving. If giving of your own things is not practical, you can also go shopping for goods with your child specifically as a gift for those in need. Be sure to explain ahead of time the expectations at the store and that he or she is getting something as a GIFT for someone. That way there isn’t confusion as to why you didn’t buy your own child a toy. But don’t be afraid to reward your child for good behavior!
- Being helpful with family. Around the age of two, kids are already observing how their parents are helping others and naturally gravitate to wanting to help too. Model being helpful at home by volunteering for chores or caring for others in the home that feel sick—and then let your child in on being your sidekick. If your child wants to do a chore, let them, and praise them for how well they did, even if you may need to redo it later. Your child will build confidence that their efforts make a difference and that it’s important to be helpful.
Helping others can take time, money, and effort. But as adults, we know that in helping those in real need, there are rich rewards that no money can buy. It’s hard to imagine being the one in need, and sometimes that is us. Most likely most of us would prefer to be on the giving side on any day. Those in need wonder, “Who will help me?” With your support, it could be your child.
Now we’d love to hear from you. How do you teach your children the importance of giving back, sharing and helping others. We would be so inspired to learn from YOU!