Getting your kids thinking about the community
Of all the lessons we hope to teach our children, giving back to the community can seem like an impossible challenge, especially for a Solo Mom with limited time and resources. But the good news is that there are a lot of ways to teach our children about giving back that require nothing more than the desire to help. The key is to talk with our kids about why we’re doing it and how other people will benefit. Kids love to be helpers, and engendering a spirit of volunteerism when they’re young will serve them throughout their lives. Here are a few ways Solo Moms can teach their kids about giving back.
- Taking care of the earth. Ever been to the playground and found a lot of trash mixed in with the sand? Gather up some plastic bags and gloves, and organize a family park cleanup day. Get your friends and neighbors involved, and make a day out of it. Then let the kids play like mad on their nice new playground!
- Reuse/recycle. One easy way to teach kids to give back right in your home is to set up recycling and compost bins. Have the kids sort items into the appropriate bin. Brainstorm as a family about things that can be reused to cut down on waste. You’ll be surprised at how excited kids get about sorting the recycling. And a little effort goes a long way!
- Donating used clothing and toys. Especially when the weather gets chilly, donating gently used coats, hats, shoes, and blankets can keep someone warm. Donating old toys to thrift shops gives that toy the chance to be loved by a whole new set of children.
- The coin jar. Put a special can or jar on your table. All year, any time anyone has some extra change, put it in the jar. During the holidays, use the money you’ve amassed to do a special charity project.
- The giving tree. At Christmastime, many charities set up a giving tree with the names of children in need. Each year, your family can choose a child or two and buy clothes, shoes, and other needed items to brighten up the holidays for children in your community.
- Soup kitchens and food pantries. Many towns have soup kitchens and food pantries to feed people who are poor and homeless. Solo Moms can volunteer with their children to feed people in need. Talk to local soup kitchen and food pantry organizers to find jobs that are safe and interesting for your children.
- The library. All libraries need volunteers. What better place to give back to the community while having fun with your kids! Look up your local Friends of the Library organization, or talk to the youth librarian about ways your family can lend a hand at the library.
- Homemade gifts. For Christmas or other gift-giving holidays, take the time to make some homemade gifts for your family members or for friends and neighbors. We all love to get gifts, but there’s nothing like making your own gifts to reinforce the value of giving. As Solo Moms, we often get all the goods our children make. Why not spread the love? Whether they’re making colorful cards and pictures, creating napkin rings, or even decorating baskets, jars, and tins, the Internet is full of great DIY crafts and projects that would make treasured gifts for the people in your community.
- Caring for the elderly. Nursing homes are a great place to give back. Younger kids will enjoy making cards and drawing pictures to brighten up the lives of nursing-home residents. And older kids will benefit greatly from time spent with friendly, knowledgeable older folks. Get your neighborhood kids together, and organize a small concert for your local nursing home or go caroling during Christmas. You’ll make new friends, learn new things, and improve the quality of life for the elderly in your community.
- Letter writing. Teach your kids that they can make a difference! Encourage them to write letters to their local government about things they’d like to see in your community or things they enjoy about the community. Write letters of support or encouragement to local police, firefighters, and other first responders. Your kids will learn more about the people who serve their community, and the recipients will know how much their work is appreciated.
As a Solo Mom, I often struggled to find time for everything that needed to be done in a given day. But I was raised to be community minded, so I volunteered my time both personally and professionally as much as I could. My favorite work has been for the Friends of the Library. I helped to organize programs and events that benefited the library, and my children were able to be part of that. Also, my extended family kept a coin jar throughout the year, the proceeds of which went to clothing, gifts, and food for families and children in need. These activities allowed us to give back as a family while having a whole lot of fun!
The opportunities to give back to your community are endless, and getting your children involved is easy. Taking care of your community can be as simple as remembering to throw away your trash, following posted signs and safety regulations, and being an active participant. Your kids will have lots of ideas about helping, and the more we let them take part in deciding how to give back, the more enthusiastically they’ll take charge of their work. There’s nothing to stop you, Solo Moms! Get out there, and start giving back with your children. It’ll change your world.
Do you know a family who’s given back in a special way? Become an ESME Sister, and say thank you with a Shout Out!
Amy Rivers is a writer and mother of two. She has a master’s degree with concentrations in psychology and political science, and enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction pieces about women and women’s issues. Her debut novel, Wallflower Blooming, was released in August 2016. You can follow her on Twitter at @WritingRivers and learn more about her work at her website, www.amyrivers.com.
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