From our first days of school, we are taught a series of important equations starting with 1 + 1 = 2
But there is another formula for success that every child should know. It's not listed in many textbooks, but it has the power to transform lives - not just theirs, but also the lives of their families and communities.
Gift + Issue = Change.
Don't be misled by the word 'gift'. Society's definition of the 'gifted' child is limited almost exclusively to star pupils and athletes, though few children will become either.
At Free The Children, we believe that every child has something special to offer. Some have a knack for making friends, others for drawing; some are natural-born leaders or problem solvers. And just as everyone has a talent to share, every child can find a social issue or cause that sparks their passion.
Kids who like to mess around in the kitchen could be encouraged to organise a cake sale for charity.
Bookworms who love nothing more than to lose themselves in a story could volunteer to tutor those just learning to read.
Would be Pop-Idols or aspiring gymnasts could show off their talents at a local care home.
Artistic children can design posters to raise awareness of a local issue.
Kids with the gift of the gab can speak out about a cause close to their hearts.
So where to begin? Help your child think about what they love to do. Whether it's sports or drama, or even talking on the phone, what lights your child up is often where you'll find their gift.
Next, keep your eyes open for opportunities that allow them to combine their talents with a worthy cause. There's no shortage of ways to get involved. Ask your child what social problem they are passionate about, and how their skills can make a difference.
Gift + Issue = Change is a universal equation. Show your children how to take their talent, fire it with their enthusiasm for an issue, and watch them change the world!
To help your child identify their unique gifts, complete the following exercise together.
1. Finish these sentences:
• People always say to me, you are so good at:
• When I have spare time, I love to:
2. Write down as many of your gifts as you can:
3. Write down the issues you care about:
4. Now come up with a way that you can use your gifts and passions to make a difference in your community:
Everyone has something unique to contribute to the world, even though we don't all have the confidence to admit it. Help your child think about what they love to do, and how they can use their special gifts to create change.
We've started the list with a few examples.
Good listener: Join a peer-counselling group; be known among your friends as the one who is always there.
Physical strength: Help your neighbour with gardening.
Language: Tutor other students in one of your languages.
Writing: Start a school newspaper devoted to social issues; draft letters to politicians for a social cause.
Speaking: Run for your school council and create positive change; speak at your school about an issue that concerns you.
Athletic ability: Organise a sports tournament to raise awareness and funds for charity.
Musical talents: Set up a charity concert or talent show at school.
Artistic sensibility: Start a community mural project where participants can express their thoughts about an issue in a group painting.
Design greeting cards to sell during the holidays as a fundraiser for a good cause.
This blog is 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.