Posts Tagged ‘ giving back ’

Teach Your Child to Make a #ThankList

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

IQuick! Who are you thankful for?

Is it your spouse/partner? Kid(s)? Mom? Dad? …?

If you have trouble naming someone beyond core family members, you’re not alone. Actress Elizabeth Banks recently found herself stumped as well. But with the help of a new gratitude initiative called the ThankList, Banks was able to remember and thank a friend she hadn’t seen in 15 years.

According to the 2014 Civility in America survey, 93 percent of Americans believe there’s a civility problem that is contributing to an increasingly rude nation. To help make the world a nicer, thoughtful, and caring place, American Greetings created the ThankList project and then teamed up with the Huffington Post to remind people that two simple words (“Thank you”) are powerful enough to increase civility.

You’re encouraged to write a list of people who shaped you and who you want to thank (just watch this series of short ThankList films to be inspired!). The people you express gratitude for can be “anyone in your life who listened when you needed someone to listen or anyone who supported you when you needed support,” said Banks, one of five guest speakers at a ThankList media panel.

Of course, gratitude doesn’t have to start and end with adults — teaching kids to be thankful from an early age will help them be happier and more appreciative with the people and things around them. A recent study even found that gratitude is a key factor in helping people feel more positive and satisfied later in life. Nurturing a grateful child can also develop other related qualities such as kindness, generosity, a sense of social responsibility, and even good manners. Plus, giving thanks also has long-term physical and mental health benefits.

So a child’s first role model for gratitude starts with you — by sharing your own ThankList (use #ThankList on social media), keeping a gratitude journal, or even doing good deeds can help your little one understand the importance of counting your blessings. After all, there’s a reason why we ask kids to express gratitude every Thanksgiving, though the practice could certainly be done year-round. And according to the same civility survey, millennials are becoming more proactive in countering incivility and doing something about it — which is good news to be thankful for, because the more kindness and gratitude spreads, the more hope parents will have that the world is becoming a better place for kids.

Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com. She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea.

Teach Your Child How to Write a Simple Thank-You Note
Teach Your Child How to Write a Simple Thank-You Note
Teach Your Child How to Write a Simple Thank-You Note

Photo of “I’m Thankful For” sign via Shutterstock

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How Generous Was Your Family This Holiday Season?

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Hands holding a heartGrowing up, even though I didn’t believe in Santa Claus, I still, um, believed in getting gifts. And I had my fair share of Christmas wish lists for mom and dad. A few items that topped one year’s list included a Play-Doh machine that molded glittery butterflies, an Easy Bake Oven, and a sparkly-velvety Christmas Barbie. I actually never received any of these items, and I am grateful that my parents never gave them to me.

Instead of teaching me to expect gifts every year just because it was the expected for Christmas, my parents taught me to remember those who had helped us in some way throughout the year, and to give to them instead. In our family, this meant remembering the next-door neighbor who helped shovel our snow in winter, the family friend who dropped me off after school, and even the postman — with either fresh fruits, a homemade meal, or chocolates. My parents didn’t give generously in the lavish and expensive sense; instead, they made sure to give generously with affection and heart.

But what makes someone generous? And can generosity be developed?

The answers may lie in a recent study published online in Current BiologyDevelopmental neuroscientists at the University of Chicago focused on a small sample size of 57 children, ages 3 to 5, to see how the idea of generosity (or the concept of moral behavior) formed at a young age. Each child watched short animations of cartoon characters either helping or hurting one another. Afterwards, the children were presented with two boxes and 10 stickers. They had the option of placing stickers in one box for themselves to keep, or placing the stickers in the other box to share with an unknown child. In most cases, regardless of age or gender, children placed at least 2 stickers in the box for the unknown child.

Throughout the experiment, the scientists tracked and recorded the children’s brain waves and eye movement. They then compared the children’s brain waves during the watching process and the giving process. Researchers noticed that specific neural markers in the brain during both times were engaged in the same way, which indicated that even at a young age, kids had the ability to connect moral situations (helping someone) with the desire to share (being generous).

This is an encouraging study, which is on track to showing that generosity can be identified in kids who are still at an age when selfishness reigns. And if generosity can be identified, then it has the potential to be nurtured and developed as kids get older. In essence, being generous means being sensitive to the needs of others and sacrificing some time (or maybe money) to helping them.

And most parents want to raise kids who give and who understand the importance of volunteering and donating to charity.  One way parents can teach the idea of giving and generosity might be as simple as asking kids what gifts they will give others for Christmas, versus what gifts they want to receive. Or it may mean emphasizing gifts that come from the heart and not from the wallet, like spending more time together, as this IKEA Spain commercial reveals. It’s always the simple, smallest things that can make the biggest impact.

‘Tis the season for giving, which doesn’t have to end with the Christmas holiday. Instead, make giving and generosity (with your time, understanding, words of encouragement, hugs and kisses) an ongoing, year-round concept.

Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com who covers baby-related content. She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

Photo: Hands holding a heart via Shutterstock

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A Win-Win Situation

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

My son Matthew and I go to a lot of baseball games together. I took him to his first game at age 2 ½ and knew right away that I had a fan: When we left after 7 innings (as it was already well past his bedtime), he seemed confused and asked if the game was really over. Since then he’s attended (by my estimate) well over 100 more, including last year’s MLB All-Star Game and visits this year to Chase Field in Phoenix and Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, which we agree is one of the very best. Mostly, though, we are Mets fans who enjoy nothing more than an evening of suffering entertainment at Citi Field.

Still, there’s one game every year that stands out above all the others: The one where Matthew shares his passion for the game with some very deserving children and their families. All are residents of homeless shelters run by Win, which provides transitional housing for more than 3,400 people every night—including more than 2,000 kids. Far from the scary shelters you may have read about, Win housing mostly consists of individual residences for homeless moms and their children. The average stay is about 11 months. During that time Win provides childcare assistance (and even a specialized day camp program), job-search programs, and other services to help families transition to permanent housing and independence. Many succeed: 90 percent of those who leave their shelters for supportive housing are still in the same apartment two years later—and their kids have the hope of a brighter future.

We first hooked up with Win through our temple. As part of Matthew’s mitzvah (do-good) project, he visited a Win shelter in Harlem and spent time working on crafts and games in the community room with the kids. He connected with the kids, who were as young as 4 and as old as 16, quickly. For Matthew, it was natural to talk to them about sports—which ones they played, what players they liked. Some of the children spoke very little English, but all of them had something to say and found a way to communicate. But while most every kid could name their favorite team, none had ever been to a game. Matthew found that shocking. So he decided to write the Mets and ask if they would donate tickets to the shelter. About a month later, the Mets came through, saying they’d be happy to accommodate Matthew’s request on Win’s behalf. That first outing, with about 50 kids and their moms, happened week before his Bar Mitzvah ceremony, which made it particularly meaningful—it wasn’t just about the party, but about accepting his responsibility as a member of the community and a citizen of the world.

Matthew was inspired to continue his connection to Win. He has attended several more craft days and turned the initial Mets outing into an annual event. This year, I think, was the best yet. Perhaps that’s because it was a warm summer evening and no one had to worry about school the next day. Or maybe it’s because the Mets—who are now 3-0 in Win games (I hope the team will make note of that for next year’s ticket request)—walloped the Atlanta Braves 8-3. But really, it had more to do with the fact that he has gotten to know many of the kids and feels comfortable with them. That works both ways—I marvel at how these wonderful, energetic children gravitate toward him, as if they’d been friends for years. We didn’t get to watch much of the game this time. But that’s okay. Instead, we took them to the kids’ zone, where they hit a plastic ball off a tee in a mini replica of Citi Field (one kid actually hit it out of the park!), played Wii, and tried the dunk tank. Suffice to say they had a blast. As the ninth inning began, heavy wind gusts and a steady drizzle led some of the adults to run toward the exits. But the kids were having none of it. They insisted on staying till the final out, shouting “Let’s Go Mets” on cue like dedicated fans. It made Matthew proud.

What makes me proud is that Matthew has found a worthy cause to get involved with and managed to tailor it to his own obsession interest. I wish I’d started him with a volunteering at an even younger age, and I’d recommend that you do so as well. For some great family volunteering ideas, click here, here, or here. And if you’re thinking about donating to a worthy cause, I hope you’ll consider Win, which has been helping women and children break the cycle of homelessness for 30 years.

 

How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer

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