HELPING CHILDREN BRING THEIR PASSIONS TO LIFE
As you make service and kindness a focus in your family's life, your children will suggest ideas for how they want to build a better world. Perhaps your daughter has voiced concern that not everyone in her school has hats and mittens. Maybe your son worries about the fate of homeless pets. Your child may have a friend with juvenile diabetes and want to raise money to find a cure, or may read about a natural disaster and want to help. How can you best support your child's passion for change? Here are some tips for guiding and sustaining your child's selfless impulses.
-Jenny Friedman, Executive Director
CREATING SOCIAL ACTION PROJECTS
Make a Difference.....
- Do research. Help your child find information about their cause. Steer them to books, blogs, websites, videos or articles. If your child is younger, read together about the issue. Most important, make it a family conversation. Pose questions that stimulate thinking about the problem-and possible solutions.
- Discover local organizations. Search on VolunteerMatch or check with your community volunteer center to see if a local group is taking on this issue. If so, study their website, then arrange for a visit, conversation and tour.
- Decide on an action plan. Now that you're educated, help your child settle on a course of action. Here are possibilities:
- Volunteer. If your child discovers an organization that needs a helping hand, consider volunteering. If no kid- or family-friendly job is apparent, ask the volunteer coordinator for ideas.
- Educate others. Encourage your child to spread the word about the cause. Your child (or the whole family) might consider using social media, arranging for a speaker, writing an e-newsletter, distributing flyers, or making a presentation or movie. The idea is to get people engaged.
- Organize a collection. Many causes are in desperate need of supplies, everything from sandwiches to children's magazines to cast-off coats. Make sure the charity has a place to store the items before you begin. Check out this archived newsletter for a step-by-step guide .
- Host a fundraiser. Most causes need funds. You'll see several creative options for fundraisers at our Big-Hearted Families website. Tell the receiving organization about your plans beforehand; they can often provide valuable assistance.
- Advocate. Suggest your child write to your local representatives about the issue. Or begin a petition or start a club with like-minded friends or neighbors.
- Follow through. Remind your child that it's important to follow through, even if generating interest (or keeping up their own interest) is tougher than they thought. That means sticking with their commitment to volunteer, writing thank-you notes to anyone who helps or donates, and being a good steward of collected items or funds.
ACT AS MENTOR AND MOTIVATOR
Talk About It.....
Whether you take a "hands off" approach with your child's project or decide to work alongside them, try to act as a sounding board. Talking together and expressing support might be the most important role parents can play in nurturing their child's passion for service and activism. Here are some questions to help get the conversation going.
- Tell me about the issue you want to do something about. Why is it important to you?
- What have you learned about this issue? How could you learn more?
- What kind of action do you think will make a difference?
- Do you want to work on your own, with the family, or gather a group of friends to join in with you?
- Are you comfortable trying to generate interest in your cause among family and friends? Community members? The media? How would you do that?
- If you ask someone for help and they turn you down, what will you say to the person?
- What will you do if you begin the project and start to feel discouraged?
- Now that the project is over, what did you enjoy most about it? What surprised you? What would you do differently if you did it again? What's your next step?
Learn About It.....
Some books can inspire passion; others provide practical guidance. Here are a few of each.
A ValueTales Treasury: Stories for Growing Good People by Spencer Johnson. Ages 4-8. These are motivating, creative biographies of people who have lived out their values to help others.
Make a Difference 101 by Sande Hart. Ages 10 and up. This comprehensive workbook is a step-by-step guide to help kids (and adults) figure out how to use their interests to make a difference. Available in print or e-book.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Ages 4-8. A delightful classic about growing old gracefully and the importance of living your dream and bringing beauty into the world.
The Kid's Guide to Social Action: How to Solve the Social Problems You Choose - and Turn Creative Thinking into Positive Action by Barbara A. Lewis. Ages 9-12.These stories of kids who've made a difference will inspire young activists, and the how-to sections (on writing letters, creating petitions, fundraising, getting media coverage) will give kids the skills to change the world.
The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect with Others (Near & Far) to Create Social Change by Barbara A. Lewis Ages 12 an up. Real stories and thoughtful ideas blend to inspire and jump-start acts of global service.
"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away."
– Joy J. Golliver, author