Put a child in a room full of poor, less fortunate children and you know what they’ll see? Kids. Over the last eight months My husband and I have watched it happen with our sons Ethan and Cameron, over and over again.
We left home last July on a yearlong around-the-world trip. We wanted to introduce the kids to a world that was bigger than the neighbourhood they are growing up in. We set out to introduce them to new cultures and experiences . We hoped they would notice the differences and develop compassion and empathy. Instead they noticed the similarities and developed friendships.
Inside the cheerfully painted walls of a Shanghai orphanage we helped to serve lunch to kids with physical, mental and developmental needs. Staff are few and needs are great but my boys brought a joy to the task we couldn’t have anticipated. To them, and most children, helping comes naturally. For kids, a room full of hungry children is room full of children they can help feed. Within minutes the boys were giggling along with new friends and playing peek-a-boo with children who don’t normally get that kind of attention. Us adults joined in too. The smiles were contagious.
The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to China to make a difference. There are plenty of ways to give your children the opportunity to show empathy, compassion and help those less fortunate right here at home. Give them the chance and I guarantee you will all reap the rewards.
Here are three things we learned that may help you help your kids begin to get involved:
- Make it simple – You might be tempted to go big, organize teams, develop strategies…don’t. Keep it simple and direct. Let them choose the donation for the food bank and deliver it. Make them your apprentice as you prepare a meal for an elderly neighbor. Keeping the helping action and the end result close makes it more meaningful.
- Make it relatable – As tempting as it might be to try to explain the politics behind child hunger, kids really aren’t going to get it. Instead, give them ownership of the giving. Take something they love (soccer, lemonade, fashion) and suggest they find a way to help other kids enjoy it too (collect money for soccer balls at your next party, set up a stand to raise funds for a shelter, start a basket for clothing you no longer need for donation).
- Make it fun – You want them to think of helping as fun so let them offer up their own ideas about making it even more so. We went to the Chinese orphanage to serve lunch, the kids decided to teach the kids some games as well and that made all the difference. They took a good intention and made it better.
Article by Heather Greenwood Davis.
Heather Greenwood Davis is a freelance columnist and feature writer. She and her family and now making their way through the last third of an around the world trip. Follow along at www.globetrottingmama.com