One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is the opportunity to help someone else. And we're not just talking in a warm-and-fuzzy "ought to" way. Studies show that volunteering makes a huge difference when it comes to your kid's friendships, self-confidence, behaviour development and academic abilities.
And raising your children to be compassionate isn't just good for them - it's good for the world. Here are some tips to help you nurture your kids to care and contribute.
1. Foster empathy: "How would you feel if...?" The question that's perfect for every occasion. Ask your child to put his self in someone else's shoes-happy or sad.
2. Early to rise: Set the alarm 20 minutes early to avoid the morning rush. With luck, you'll spend less time hustling your kid out the door and more time checking in with her about the day ahead. Connecting leads to caring.
3. Teach responsibility: Bring your kids on board to help with housework. Start small and slowly assign more advanced tasks until the recycling goes out on its own!
4. Not-so-random acts of kindness: Lead by example, and show your child that acts of caring are a part of everyday life - say hello to a stranger, pick up litter in the park or help an elderly neighbour with house work. Moments like these form strong shared memories between parent and child.
5. Talk about the headlines: When you're reading the paper, point out stories of interest to your children. Discuss the individuals you read about, and the difference they are making in the world.
6. Fill a pocket with love: Every now and then, add a note to your child's lunch box or slip it into his pocket to let him know all the reasons that he is loved. Knowing your unconditional love will give him confidence.
7. Will work for coin: If you give your kid an allowance, ask her to divide it into three: Save some. Spend some. Share/donate some.
8. Talk the talk: Identify local injustices and discuss how your family might respond. Consider what the community could be doing.
9. Practice gratitude: Help your child start a gratitude diary. Every day, get her to write down three things the make her happy.
10. Show respect: Let your child know each time he does something that has earned your respect. It's a confidence booster and an incentive for your child to make positive choices.
Let us know how it goes! Keep in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips are adapted from The World Needs Your Kid: Raising Children Who Care and Contribute by Craig and Marc Kielburger, co-founders of Free The Children. As an international charity and educational partner with an 18-year history of working with youth all over the world, Free The Children, among its many initiatives, provides educational resources for local and global issues to help you make a difference: from fun activities you can do at home to awareness and fundraising campaign. Visit www.freethechildren.com.
The Kielburgers are also co-founders of We Day, a series of events that inspire and empower young people to be active local and global citizens. We Day UK makes its debut on March 7 at the Wembley Arena.