What is happening? What is this new normal that has come to pass lately? This is not the world I dreamed of bringing my children into.
I know that I am one of countless people asking this question, but I can’t help but feel, well, almost powerless, every time I hear another heart-breaking story on the news-whether local, or abroad.
When their is that feeling of helplessness, there is always something, however seemingly small, that we can do to affect change in our small parts of the world.
As a mother and a therapist, I see our children as the keys to future. They can affect so much positive change; I believe something proactive that we can do as role models and facilitators would be to help them truly understand and practice kindness, compassion, and understanding to others.
- Practice what you preach: this is a hard one, especially since we are human and all have our moments. It’s important to try to remember, however, that kids pick up on more than we may realize, and that often focus more on our actions rather than our words. When interacting with peers, ensure that you are being inclusive, kind, and friendly. Walk over to someone new at a social gathering, and make them feel included. Make sure to say please and thank you. Help an elderly or differently-abler person cross the street-with your kids. If you are wrong-apologize. It’s the little things.
- Have your kids and/or students write an “I appreciate you because…” note to brighten someone’s day. Let them hand-deliver it, so they can personally see the happiness their note brings.
- The holidays are coming for many of us. Why not ask your child/ren or students to set aside one gift each to donate to a specific charity of their choosing? Do the research together to make it more meaningful.
- Bake a cake or cookies for the local fire, ambulance corps, and/or police department, etc. Explain in advance that the dessert is designated for the local heroes who do so much for us all. Talk about self-control!
- Keep gratitude journals. It can be hard to focus on the positives of daily life, but jotting down or sketching at least one positive about the day can lead to a more positive mindset-thus, improving happiness, and overall capacity for kindness.
- Have a ‘Buddy-System’-this can be implemented at the home, and/or school level. When older children are mentors for younger children, the level of social-emotional growth between the two children can be enormous. The older child learns the importance of kindness, empathy, understanding (while improving self-confidence as they are provided with this responsibility). The younger child has the potential to learn a great deal from the older child. As the adult, we have to facilitate the relationship, especially initially, through more structured activities that can hopefully be faded away over time.
- Encourage collaborative play, work, and games. There are many board games where the goal is to work collaboratively to get to the end. Collaborative art projects at home, small group projects at school (ie-on a large poster board where all can draw on and contribute to), and free play that encourages kids to be inclusive and work together all foster a warm, positive, and welcoming atmosphere (ie-imagination blocks, imaginary-play games, water and sand tables, etc).
- Encourage politeness, and respect. Yes means yes, and no means no. Set boundaries of what you believe is important, make that clear to your kids and students, and establish rules early on. Explain that you are kind and respectful, and that you expect the same behavior. Yes means yes, and no means no. This leads to the next item.
- Its ok to be mad, but it’s not ok to be mean. This is another thing that I have always emphasized and established early on. It is always ok to feel a strong feeling, but it is not ok to act negatively on it-this is where it is important to really teach children the necessary coping strategies (physical and emotional regulation) so that they can exhibit self-control. You can reference my books, The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control, and my newly released book-How to Be a Superhero Called Self-Control.
- The I-Can message. When kids are stuck in ‘no’, or ‘I can’t’, it is so important to try and replace those thoughts with positive ones. If your child or student believes that they can’t control their body, catch them calm and take a picture of them sitting calmly with their friends or doing work. This is a visual reminder that negates the negative thought. Who knows? Maybe that picture, and that change in thought, could change that child’s life around.
So, that’s it. I know there are tons of ways to affect change. So many things we can all do, to much larger scales. But here’s my contribution. If even one reader chooses to implement one idea from this list of ten that I wrote down, then, the world just got a little brighter-and what’s more, through the words and actions of children. They are the light in this darkness.
Have an amazing weekend. Wishing and hoping with all my heart and soul for peace over the world.