Yesterday was Red Deer’s Feed The Need in which hundreds of Red Deerians came together to meet the needs of their fellow Red Deerians. It’s a heart-warming reminder that care and compassion in our Community is very much alive, and that we each have the power to make a difference.
Such a powerful statement prompts many parents to ask how they can start engaging their children in helping the Community too; they are after-all the next generation.
We’ve put together our top tips on how Parents can raise socially responsible Children and start getting them active in their Community.
Talk to Them
Children start to pick up on current events at a young age; whether it’s from the News being played on the TV, or listening to their parents talk about current affairs at the dinner table.
It’s never too early to start talking to them about what’s going on in the world; caring and compassionate adults begin as caring and compassionate children. Be prepared to deliver the truth, but only as much truth as a child needs to know. The key is to be honest, but to help them feel safe.
Talk through the feelings that arise from a given situation, create context by using specific events to broaden the discussion into a larger conversation.
Use these conversations as a segway to talk about your child’s immediate community – whether that is their school class, or the location they live in. This helps children put into context broader issues and to think about their Community, as well as to begin understanding complexities such as the socio-economic dynamics that exist and the differences between differing communities.
Teach through Exposure
The older children get the more conscious of their surroundings they become. They start to notice things like homelessness, racism and the different family dynamics their peers might have.
While our job is to protect them and not deliver more truth than they are able to comprehend, or process; we also owe it to them not to completely shield them from every hardship.
It’s natural to want to hold them tight and keep them away from the sadness of life; but in doing so, we are doing them a disservice. To parent is to prepare our child for adulthood; for one day flying the nest and navigating their world.
A necessary part of that is to help them process their world; in an age appropriate way; their outlook and emotions on the issues that will be part of the world they will one day be required to navigate as adults.
Exposure to the world around them can prove to be tender teachable moments as you watch compassion, care and concern bud in your child.
Give them Responsibilities
As very young children; our perspective is “me” and as we get older, it shifts to “we”. A great way to teach children to be other-centred is to give them age appropriate responsibilities.
Whether in the larger Community, at school or at home; a societal sub-culture exists; giving children an active role in the responsibilities at home helps them to develop a sense of society and community.
Teach them to Stand Up for Just Causes
Children develop a sense of right and wrong at a young age and they innately understand the concept of justice and injustice early on – even if it’s because you just confiscated their favourite toy!
But this is a good thing, because it offers the foundation upon which to start teaching them how this applies to the wider world.
This can start with a simple conversation about something they witnessed at school, or how they were treated; and how this made them feel. These conversations allow us to instill in our children the confidence to stand up for something they instinctively know to be wrong or unjust.
Find ways to engage with the Community
There are so many ways you can start engaging your children in social activism, whether it is sponsoring a child and writing to them, participating in local Coat Drives, preparing a meal for a neighbour, or someone in the Community; or even recycling at home.
There is no right or wrong way to teach social activism, the key is to build upon the innate desire we all have to love and be loved, be open to honest conversations and create opportunities for our child to be part of something bigger than themselves.
What’s your favourite community activity to take your child to?