The one post of mine that still gets the most hits is 20 Random Acts of Kindness for Kids. Evidence, it seems to me, that raising socially responsible kids is of utmost importance to today’s parents. In a time where we hear mostly about scandals and bullies, it is so refreshing that raising socially responsible kids is at the forefront of parents’ minds. Fortunately there are so many ways to teach our children about social good and to show them how much paying it forward really matters.
Find causes that resonate with your children. Let’s face it. Some kids are going to be more empathetic than others. One way to teach empathy is to find what resonates with your children. My son has an esophageal disease and stories of children with serious illnesses tend to resonate with him. I know that he will be substantially more willing to participate in socially responsible efforts to help sick children than a cause which does not have personal meaning to him.
Make it personal. Mara at Mom Faze says that teaching her children to be socially responsible means, “To do for others with no expectation of return. To think outside of yourself to ease the teenage tendency to be egocentric. I also try and introduce them to people who have endured hardships which they have not to encourage empathy.”
Make it about family. Candace at Naturally Educational added, “We bring the children along when we volunteer (for example, when we prepare meals for the homeless, the kids come and make cards). We also look for opportunities where the kids can volunteer, such as helping to clean the local beach, my 5 year old performing holiday songs at the senior center, stuffing stockings for kids who use the local food pantry, making Valentine’s cards for Veterans or filling backpacks with school supplies for the children of my husband’s National Guard unit.”
Lead by example. The family that stays together gives together. Melissa at The Staten Island Family has shown her children the beauty in paying it forward because they witness her involvement in a cause that is incredibly important to her. “TOTALLY getting them involved in pet rescue and driving home the importance of taking care of all living things! We just rescued a two year old Shih Tzu from a shelter, and in doing so– it is the first of many steps I hope we will take as a family to act more on behalf of animals who cannot protect and defend themselves. The first two weeks we had him I was sleeping with him downstairs, he was bleeding all over the place– he had all these issues and I know seeing this has softened their hearts and made them so much bigger!”
Spread the love. There are several ways for children to pay it forward, such as hosting a lemonade stand and donating the proceeds, cleaning up your neighborhood, helping the elderly and participating in a family run/walk for a charity. Sara at Saving for Someday says, “I try to teach my daughter what my grandparents taught me. It’s from a quote by Anne Frank: no one ever became poor from giving. I also try to teach that social responsibility comes in many different forms, so we volunteer our time, donate our money and pass along our gently used items.”
Use each day as a teachable moment. What lessons do you teach your children when you are the person on the receiving end of others’ kindness? Lani at Chemo Babe is using the cards that life has handed her us to teach gratitude and kindness. In a recent post about how her children are coping with her cancer she writes, “So this is an opportunity to teach them, in a vivid way, the importance of love, generosity, and hope. I have marveled with them at the kindness of the people who took me in and cared for me when our family had its initial crisis. I try to help them see the weight that is lifted as people bring us meals or visit and help with chores. I hope that, with our guidance, they can see how these acts of loving kindness are fundamental to a community and that they will be eager to give to others when the opportunity arises.”
With the growth of social media and the easy ability to connect with people all over the world, we are raising our children at such an exciting time. Today those who have both passion and compassion regardless of their age, gender, race, education level or income level, can truly make a difference through acts of social good. As parents it is our responsibility to teach our children to have empathy towards others and show them that paying it forward matters. We have the ability to empower the next generation by giving them the desire to be socially responsible and the will to make an impact.
What does social responsibility mean to you as a parent? Are you focusing on teaching your kids to have empathy and do social good? How are you working to raise socially responsible children?