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3 Ways to Teach Kids to Give Back #KidsGiveBack

3 Ways to Teach Kids to Give Back #KidsGiveBack

Children are our future. In order for kids to become compassionate, giving, and philanthropic as adults we need to teach them these skills as children. It is not always easy finding ways for children and families to volunteer and give, other than writing a check. However, there are several options available to almost everyone around the United States. These three ways, listed below, of giving back can teach your child not only to give back, but it can help them appreciate what they do have.

One of the best ways to find gratitude in our own lives is to see those who are much less fortunate. This gratitude for our own lives and opening our children’s eyes to see how others have it so much worse can help them become empathetic human beings. It isn’t enough to tell our children about the poor and destitute. We need to teach them to make a difference and put it into action. These tips are actions everyone can take with their children.

1. Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child is an amazing international project that has sent millions of shoeboxes filled with gifts and necessities to impoverished children in over 150 countries since 1993. Anyone can participate in this giving project. You and your children can go shop for a child, pack it in a shoebox, and then take it to a drop off location. There are more than 5,000 drop off locations in the United States. Go to this link to find a drop off location near you: https://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations/. They ask for a suggested donation of $7 per box, to cover the cost of transporting it to the child.

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    You can chose the gender and age range of the child you want to provide a shoebox gift to. If you select the same age and gender as your own child it makes it easier for them to select gifts for this child. It also helps them relate to the child.

    When choosing necessities and school supplies to pack in the box (as suggested per the Operation Christmas Child site), it becomes a teachable moment with your child as you can explain that many children can’t afford to go buy these essential items. You can also explain that many will not get Christmas gifts, as their family is just trying to survive on a daily basis and they need to spend their money on food. Your child will begin to understand that not all children are as fortunate as they are, but we can do something to help these children. Bigger giving in life begins with small giving now. Teach them the skill of giving to others, so that the skill can grow in them as they grow up.

    There is a tutorial on the exact steps for shopping, packing, printing your label, and drop off instructions on the Operation Christmas Child site. They make it very easy for people to participate and show love to these children who live very impoverished lives abroad. You can also track your box to see where it goes. I have always included a letter in my boxes for the child. Two times I have received letters back!

    Here is the link for instructions on how to participate: Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Instructions. Make sure you have your shoeboxes to the collection location on time, as the shoebox collection week is November 14-21.

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      2. Ronald McDonald House Charities

      The Ronald McDonald House Charities is a non profit that provides free or very low cost temporary housing for parents who have children in the hospital. There are over 350 Ronald McDonald Houses across the globe, most are based in the United States. These houses provide a private room for parents and children, hot meals, a playroom for children, and compassionate staff and volunteers to be there for the families.

      My husband and I personally stayed in two Ronald McDonald Houses while our son was hospitalized for weeks on end. Without these houses, we would not have been able to be with our son each day, all day long, as our home was over 2 hours away. They provided us with a private room and bathroom, hot meals each day, staff that was willing to lend a caring ear, and snacks to take to the hospital with us. They were there for us in our time of need. Our son ended up dying in the hospital.

      The first people we saw after he died and we left the hospital was the Ronald McDonald House staff. They were very compassionate, caring, and loving. We are just one of thousands of families that have been touched and cared for by the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

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      What makes their organization even more special is that the meals are cooked by local volunteers. This is one way you and your family can give back. In the years since our son has passed, I have volunteered several times to cook meals at my local Ronald McDonald House. In the location where I made the meal, I brought the ingredients for the meal to the Ronald McDonald House and cooked it right there. They had a large kitchen space with several ovens, making the process even easier. When I arranged to come to make the meal, the staff told me how many I would need to cook for, and what time I would need to have the meal ready for the residents. They made it very easy for me to volunteer in this capacity. You too can volunteer to cook at a local Ronald McDonald House. Simply contact your local House by finding them on this site (simply enter your country and state).

      There are other ways to help out at your local Ronald McDonald House and have your kids volunteer too. You can create snack bags for the parents to take, so they have food and snacks to take to the hospital. Contact your local Ronald McDonald House to find out if they have requirements (such as a certain number of bags to make for the residents or food restrictions for potential allergies).

      Another way to give is to purchase toys for the children who are in the hospital. Families who stay at these homes are often a long way from their home and they can’t simply drive home to get their child’s personal books and toys. Providing toys and books that the residents can have for their children is a wonderful gift.

      As you buy toys with your child for these ailing children, you can discuss with your child how these children ended up in the hospital. It is important for them to understand that not all children are born healthy and that some children get sick, or have serious accidents that threaten the lives of these children. Having your child buy toys for these children is a way of bringing some happiness into the lives of these sick or hurt children. Your child will develop compassion for ailing children in the process of understanding their situation and giving generously to them.

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      Another way to give to the Ronald McDonald House Charities that doesn’t cost anything at all, is to collect can pull tabs. These tabs which can be found on sodas and other beverage, as well as some food containers. These help to cover costs incurred at Ronald McDonald Houses. At a Ronald McDonald House where I volunteered, they said they used the funds from those tabs (which are recycled for money) to pay for the electricity and water bills for their charity house where hundreds of family, at this particular house, stayed each year.

      For more information on pull-tab collection and other ways to help, please go to this link.

      3. Meals on Wheels

      Meals on Wheels is one of the longest running charities in the Unites States. They provide free meals to housebound (often elderly) people in the community. There are local chapters of Meals on Wheels all over the country. Go to this link to find a chapter near you to contact.

      This program provides a great opportunity for families to volunteer together. You can simply contact your local chapter and sign up to deliver meals. I contacted my local chapter and they said most volunteers sign up for just one day a month and it takes 1.5 hours to deliver all the meals. No cooking required! You just pick up the meals and deliver them. Children can help by carrying the meals with you to hand deliver at each home. Children will get to see the real recipients of these meals and get the thank you for the delivery as well. This volunteer opportunity doesn’t require any money, just some time and a vehicle. It is an easy and wonderful way to give back.

      Let’s start a movement of getting kids to give back now. It starts in our own homes with our own children. Use the hashtag #KidsGiveBack on social media and share your stories and photos of giving back with your children. Let’s make a difference in our communities starting with us today! Your opportunities to give back know no limits. There are many good charities and opportunities, the above are just a few suggestions. Share your experiences and giving back on social media to encourage others to give back as well #KidsGiveBack.

      More by this author

      Dr. Magdalena Battles

      A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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      Published on November 14, 2018

      Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

      Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

      With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

      For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

      In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

      Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

      Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

      It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

      For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

      Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

      Symptoms of Fatigue

      Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

      • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
      • mental blocks
      • lack of motivation
      • headache
      • dizziness
      • muscle weakness
      • slowed reflexes and responses
      • impaired decision-making and judgement
      • moodiness, such as irritability
      • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
      • reduced immune system function
      • blurry vision
      • short-term memory problems
      • poor concentration
      • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

      Causes of Fatigue

      The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

      • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
      • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
      • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
      • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

      Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

      Medical Causes of Fatigue

      If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

      Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

      Anemia

      Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

      Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

      There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

      Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

      Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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      This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

      Diabetes

      Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

      Sleep Apnea

      Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

      Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

      Thyroid disease

      An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

      Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

      • Lack of sleep
      • Too much sleep 
      • Alcohol and drugs 
      • Sleep disturbances 
      • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
      • Poor diet 

      Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

      • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
      • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
      • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
      • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

      Psychological Causes of Fatigue

      Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

      • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
      • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
      • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

      How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

      Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

      1. Tell The Truth

      Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

      To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

      Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

      The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

      One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

      • How you feel
      • What time of day it is
      • What may have contributed to your fatigue
      • How your mind and body reacts

      This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

      2. Reduce Your Commitments

      When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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      If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

      When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

      Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

      3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

      If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

      Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

      If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

      Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

      Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

      4. Express More Gratitude

      Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

      It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

      Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

      5. Focus On Yourself

      Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

      There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

      But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

      We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

      6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

      Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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      Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

      The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

      Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

      7. Take a Power Nap

      When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

      Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

      This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

      8. Take More Exercise

      The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

      Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

      The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

      You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

      9. Get More Quality Sleep

      To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

      Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

      My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

      10. Improve Your Diet

      Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

      Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

      On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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      To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

      Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

      Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

      11. Manage Your Stress Levels

      Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

      When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

      Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

      My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

      12. Get Hydrated

      Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

      Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

      If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

      The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

      The Bottom Line

      These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

      If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

      Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
      [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
      [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
      [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
      [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
      [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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