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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.

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      Dr. Magdalena Battles

      Doctor of Psychology

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      How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

      How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

      Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

      Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

      I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

      You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

      Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

      When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

      I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

      Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

      Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

      Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

      1. The Inner Critic

      This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

      • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
      • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
      • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
      • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

      He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

      Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

      2. The Worrier

      This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

      He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

      Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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      3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

      He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

      He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

      He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

      4. The Sleep Depriver

      This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

      His motivation can be:

      • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
      • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
      • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
      • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

      How can you control these squatters?

      How to Master Your Mind

      You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

      Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

      There are two ways to control your thoughts:

      • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
      • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

      This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

      The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

      Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

      For the Inner Critic

      When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

      You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

      For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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      You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

      “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

      If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

      • He riles up the Worrier.
      • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
      • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
      • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
      • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

      Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

      Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

      For the Worrier

      Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

      Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

      You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

      • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
      • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
      • Muscles tense

      Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

      If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

      Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

      “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

      Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

      If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

      Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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      Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

      For example:

      If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

      “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

      Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

      “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

      Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

      For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

      Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

      The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

      • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
      • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
      • Muscles tension

      I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

      Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

      Breathe in through your nose:

      • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
      • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
      • Focus on your belly rising.

      Breathe out through your nose:

      • Feel your lungs emptying.
      • Focus on your belly falling.
      • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

      Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

      Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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      One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

      Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

      For the Sleep Depriver

      (He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

      I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

      Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

      1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
      2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

      When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

      From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

      For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

      If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

      You can also use this technique any time you want to:

      • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
      • Shut down your thinking.
      • Calm your feelings.
      • Simply focus on the present moment. 

      Becoming the Master of Your Mind

      Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

      You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

      Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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