Posts Tagged ‘ volunteering ’

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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Should Schools Make “Volunteering” Mandatory?

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter to see a play where one of her friends goes to school. There were parents galore in attendance, but many of them weren’t sitting in the audience enjoying the show like us. Instead, dozens were working the concession stand, raffle basket table, ticket booth, backstage area, or sound board. I mentioned to one mom that I had never seen so many parents turn out to help for anything, and she told me why: It was required—there was no “volunteering” part.

While many of these moms and dads probably would have helped out anyway, I’d imagine that at least some were miffed that it was mandatory. It seems excessive to me, given that parents are already asked to do so much (like participating in school fundraisers or volunteering in the lunchroom or classroom) in addition to the regular day-to-day duties (checking homework, getting supplies for school projects, communicating with teachers about any concerns, and on and on).

On the other hand, I have noticed, in my daughter’s school, that you tend to see the same parent volunteers all the time. Requiring every parent to help out might be a fairer way to distribute the workload and achieve more (it was a great show). Still, I’m leaning on the side of keeping volunteering exactly what it sounds like—your choice. What do you think?

Karen Cicero is Contributing Nutrition & Travel Editor at Parents and frequent “backstage mom” at her daughter’s shows. Follow her on Twitter @karencicero.

What Parents Don't Need to Do (When it comes to school)
What Parents Don't Need to Do (When it comes to school)
What Parents Don't Need to Do (When it comes to school)

Photo of a group of kids 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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