As parents, we have many hopes and goals to build our kids up during their childhood. While college, a good driving record and fun birthday invites are all things I pray for, the ultimate project for my tiny humans, is their heart. When my job is complete, I will consider myself successful if my children are gracious, humble and kind. While it is easy to decide these traits are important, it seems that adults often have trouble putting them into practice. Kids, however, when approached correctly, tend to accept them easily. I want to use my time now, building them up, so they have the tools necessary to practice these qualities in good seasons of their life and in bad.
Volunteering is an excellent place to start.
Let me pause here with a disclaimer: Life with small kids is tough. Whether you stay at home, work from home or work outside of the home, our days as parents are busy, long and exhausting. Just when you think you have found a nice groove and all is well, someone pukes. When the puking ceases and life returns to normal, there is an all-night ER visit for inhaling pool water and you are tired for the next week and a half trying to recover. All on top of the first day of school. I know you didn’t ask, but yes, that sums up our family’s first week back to school!
With all of that being said, we aren’t bad parents for not volunteering daily.
I try…man, do I try, but I flop more than I care to admit. Some days, I count my blessings that my children are clean, fed and asleep before 10pm! Other days, we are able to make a little more of a difference in our community. Start by discussing what volunteering means and how you, as a family, can make it a fun, no pressure adventure. Talk to your kids! You would be surprised how many ideas they have. It doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment and it doesn’t need to add stress to your already full plate. Simply see what kind gestures can best be intertwined into your day.
Any act of kindness is just that…kind.
Talk to your kids about random acts of kindness, taking a few extra minutes to think about those around us and how we can lift them up. These are everyday occurrences that can make such a difference in someone’s life. When we are aware and we make an effort, we quickly see how these “small” things really make a difference.
- Do your kids have a friend starting a new class or sport? Give them a note wishing them luck.
- Did someone you know lose a family member or a pet? Give them a card with a $5 ice cream gift card inside. It is a nice uplifting treat during a sad time.
- Take some shoe boxes and glam them up (glitter works really well) and put inside the boxes things like: snacks, playing cards, crayons, flash cards, a slinky and other small toys, and deliver these to a children’s hospital!
- Talk to your kids about people who serve our community. Help them understand the dedication of military personnel, police and fire fighters. My son loves to drop by recruiting offices and police or fire stations. Around the holiday season (coming so soon!), we will drop cookies and cards saying thank you. This is exciting for them and helps build respect for the men and women who serve and protect us every day.
Kids often relate to other kids.
This is a harder one for me as a mom, but kids often relate better to other kids. Volunteering at children’s homes, hospitals or with organizations that support kids in need, are ways my kids can give back by directly interacting with other children. It is in these settings that I pray my daughter learns empathy. I want her to develop an understanding of different situations and learn to have dignity and respect for those living in it.
- Chambliss Center for Children in Chattanooga is a wonderful organization that allows kids to volunteer. You can read to children in their classrooms or organize games and activities. If you aren’t comfortable on the front lines, you can also volunteer to help organize their storerooms or assisting teachers. You can always donate items in need.
- Lana’s Love Foundation is a miraculous group that organizes fun events for children with cancer and their families. Through their volunteers and community support, they offer kids and families opportunities to forget their battle, even just for a bit and simply have fun! While keeping some of the conversations age appropriate for my five-year-old, I explain to her the varying degrees of diagnosis these kids and their families face. Often, in these moments, I see her grace and kindness shine.
Really, when you break it down, it all circles around being kind and extending grace. If your daughter relates well to other kids, allow her to volunteer serving other kids. Have a son who loves animals? Reach out to animal shelters or even zoos to find opportunities. Be a greeter at church and a supporter of your school.