Let Your Children Find and Express Their Own Voice
Even if you introduce your children to ways that they can help others, they may end up taking the lead. When Bobbi Coffman, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, saw an ad for a shelter in nearby Baltimore that needed volunteers, she asked if her 8-year-old daughter, Amber, could help out too. "We began going once a week, and she learned that homeless people are just like anyone else," says Coffman. "Because the shelter was overcrowded, Amber saw men waiting in line who had to be turned away, and she wanted to do something to help them."
At age 10, Amber started a program called Happy Helpers for the Homeless and got some other kids and adults to help her make and distribute lunches to homeless people on the streets on weekends. "It's been in operation for seven years now, and there are branches all over the country," says Coffman. "Amber has never missed a week, no matter what the weather was like. She's done it all herself -- all I do is drive her. Amber says that she's going to help the homeless for the rest of her life."
Sometimes, of course, kids become motivated on their own. After 9-year-old Melissa Poe, of Nashville, saw a television show about a town in which the air had become so polluted that people had to wear masks, she started worrying a lot about the environment. "Voting was about as political as my husband and I had ever been," says her mother, Trisha, but they knew they shouldn't minimize their daughter's concern. "Instead, we told her, 'Since you're upset about it, why not try to do something?' " Soon after, Melissa founded Kids for a Clean Environment (Kids FACE), a club that started locally but now, ten years later, has more than 300,000 members worldwide involved in planting trees, recycling, and writing letters about environmental issues. "We supported Melissa's ideas and encouraged her regardless of whether or not she was able to accomplish each goal," says Poe.