5
Sep

How to Get Involved in Your Community

How to Get Involved in Your Community

Three Parts:Knowing Your NeighborsVolunteering Your TimeBecoming Politically ActiveCommunity Q&A

Being part of a community is a powerful experience. Communities give us a home, friendship, warmth, and a sense of belonging. How can you really be a part of a local community? There are many ways. Know your neighbors, give your time, and get active in political activities to maximize your own involvement.

Part 1

Knowing Your Neighbors

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    Introduce yourself. If you’re new to a community, take the time to call on nearby houses to introduce yourself. Tell your new neighbors what led you to the area, where you live, and say a little about your life.[1]

    • Walk up to the door and knock or ring the bell.
    • If or when someone answers, smile, greet them, and say you’re new to the community.
    • Say something like, “Hi, my name is Mabel. I just moved in across the street to start a new job in the area and wanted to introduce myself.”
    • If the neighbor seems friendly, try to engage in a bit of small talk. “How long have you lived on this street? What’s the community like? Is it close-knit?”
    • On the other hand, go out of your way to meet and greet new members of the community. Take a welcome basket to them and introduce yourself.
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    Smile and say hello. At first, this may seem strange. You might be from a big city or other place where people don’t interact on the sidewalk. However, there are lots of places where it’s polite or even expected to acknowledge, smile, and say hello to others in public. Do this enough in your neighborhood and chances are you’ll start to recognize others, and be recognized.

    • Make eye contact when you pass someone on the sidewalk. A visual acknowledgement goes a long way.
    • If the other person returns your eye contact, smile or nod your head. You can also add a greeting, like “Hello,” “Good afternoon,” or “How are you?” “Nice weather today” is another good one.
    • Keep in mind that this is really only for one-on-one situations, like when you pass one or two people on the sidewalk or walk past a neighbor’s yard. It doesn’t work well on busy streets.
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    Start a neighborhood watch. Neighborhood watches are groups that work together to prevent crime in local communities. The purpose is a serious undertaking and takes lots of cooperation and planning. It’s a great venue to get to know your neighbors better.[2]

    • First of all, try to recruit interested neighbors to form a planning committee.
    • Advertise and hold an initial meeting to canvass your other neighbors’ interest. You should also contact your local police department or sheriff’s office and invite a representative to attend.
    • Establish the aim of the program. For instance, determine what sort of concerns your community has on crime. Ideally, the watch will look out for each other’s families and property and contact police in case of any suspicious activity.
    • If the response is positive, elect block captains who can mediate between the community and police. Work with local authorities so that members get proper training on home security, crime prevention, and crime reporting. Post signs around the area and establish a means of communication, like a phone tree or a regular newsletter.
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    Organize a garage sale or block party. The key thing in getting to know your neighbors is to communicate with them. Try holding a big sale or block party, for example, or anything that will lead to interaction, socialization, and cooperation.

    • Try a block-wide garage sale. Canvas the community to see who might be interested in contributing items or volunteering to work the sale. Make sure to advertise!
    • Or, ask around to see whether your neighbors would like to hold a block party. Block parties are great for socializing and don’t require that much work. You can make it a potluck or BYOF affair.
    • If you’re ambitious, ask the local police about temporarily closing your street for the sale or party. That way, you’ll have much more room to mingle and chat.
Part 2

Volunteering Your Time

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    Try a volunteer clearinghouse. Get in touch with a volunteer clearinghouse like volunteer.gov or the Army Corps of Engineers Clearinghouse to get out and volunteer in the community. These organizations match people with volunteer jobs, after first taking stock of their skills and preferences.[3][4]

    • Usually, a service like this will interview you. Be prepared to answer questions like, “What are your interests?” “What are your skills,” and “Why do you want to volunteer?”
    • Oftentimes, you’ll have a second interview once you are matched with a specific job.
    • You may also have to undergo a background and criminal record check.
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    Contact your local school. Community schools are a great place to be involved. You can work with neighborhood children, interact with families from the area, and know that you’re making a difference by contributing to kids’ education. [5]

    • Call the school first and ask about possible volunteer opportunities. You might get to work as a recess monitor, shelve books in the school library, or help organize fundraisers.
    • Be aware that to work at a school you’ll have to have an extensive criminal background check. Often, this involves being fingerprinted.
    • Keep in mind that in some places convicted felons – no matter the crime – are not allowed to work in schools.
    • If you have children in school, you might also consider joining the PTA or the local school board. Go to meetings, voice your opinion, and volunteer for activities, committees, and functions.
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    Ask at soup kitchens, food banks, and charities. Many communities have charities that serve the poor or underprivileged, especially in big cities. Soup kitchens but also food banks, shelters, and clothing banks are non-profit organizations that rely on volunteers. Usually, they’re glad for help.

    • If you’re a people person, see whether you can do something that involves interaction. This might be working the soup line, making food deliveries, or working as a cashier at a charity thrift store.
    • Introverts can help, too. You might contribute by stocking the food bank shelves or putting together orders, for example.
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    Try churches, synagogues, or other places of worship. Many religious organizations also do charity work. If you feel comfortable, think of looking up a churches, synagogues, temples, or mosques to find opportunities to be involved in the community.

    • Religious organizations might do things like house temporary shelters for homeless families, such as Interfaith Hospitality Network.[6]
    • They also might run food and clothing banks, soup kitchens, or clothing drives.
    • Many religious organizations also organize mission activities to volunteer in under-served communities abroad. Enroll in one of these trips, if you have the inclination.
    • Keep in mind that while many of these charities are openly religious, some do not allow evangelizing.[7]
Part 3

Becoming Politically Active

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    Join your neighborhood council or school board. Does your city have councils and school boards? Some do, and joining is a great way to get politically active in your local community. Neighborhood councils usually meet regularly and may get funds for things like crime prevention, roads, streets, sidewalks, and the creation of safe play spaces. School boards manage the local school system.[8]

    • Talk to people in your area to see if you are served by a neighborhood council. If you don’t know, call the city offices and ask about such bodies, how they operate, and how you can join one.
    • Consider putting your name up for a school board position. Often representatives are chosen in local elections for a number of years.
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    Start a petition. Another way to get politically active in your community is to petition the government. Start a petition drive on an issue that speaks to you. Do you think that the community needs a park? Maybe you are sick of dangerous speeding on your street and want speed bumps installed? Petitions are a way to bring your concerns forward.[9]

    • Pick an issue that you care about. Then, start putting together a formal petition. Usually, a petition will start with words like, “We the undersigned…” You can find many templates online.
    • For example, a petition on speed bumps could start, “We the undersigned are very concerned with unregulated speeding on X Avenue and advocate speed-bumps to protect pedestrians.”
    • Take your petition around the neighborhood and knock on doors to collect signatures. Even if some neighbors don’t sign, you will have the chance to inform them on the issue.
    • If your issue is of wider importance, you can also put the petition online on a site like Change.org and reach a larger, regional audience.
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    Speak out in the community. There are other ways you can advocate on issues in your community besides petitions. Do you have a special interest in a topic like traffic control, community schools, or parks? Think about writing an opinion-editorial piece for a local website or newspaper, or even giving a talk at a community meeting.

    • Take your issue to the local paper. Call the editorial office and say that you would be interested in writing a short op-ed piece on X issue, which is important to the community.
    • Do you have expert knowledge on a community topic? You might be able to get an audience to listen. Ask to speak at a city council meeting, at the school board, the PTA, or at a community center.
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    Stand for local election. Some people who get politically active in the community take the next step: they make involvement a part-time or full-time career and stand for local office. You could run for positions like school board representative, city council member, roads commissioner, or perhaps even mayor. To get these jobs, you’ll usually have to run in an election and win.[10]

    • Pick a job that you find important. If education is your passion, start with the school board. If you are sick and tired of poor roads, perhaps the roads commission is for you.
    • Prepare yourself. Standing for election requires a lot of work, so read up on the requirements. You will probably have to file an affidavit of candidacy by a specific date to run, and there may be filing fees and other paper work.
    • Run a campaign. Local elections are generally small affairs. You likely won’t have a “campaign team,” but still consider doing some publicity. Canvass door-to-door to get your name out, invest in yard signs, or try, again, to write an op-ed in the local paper.
27
Nov

ONE Campaign: Taking Action to End Preventable Disease

ONE Campaign: Taking Action to End Preventable Disease

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the ONE campaign work together to advocate for global child health and wellbeing, including initiatives around immunization, pediatric HIV/AIDS, and energy poverty.

Their first and ongoing collaboration was around vaccine advocacy to ensure continued U.S. government support for the GAVI Alliance (GAVI), a public-private partnership that helps to assure that more children can access the vaccines they need to stay healthy. Since 2000, GAVI has supported the immunization of 440 million children and has saved more than 6 million lives.

In addition to providing access to vaccines, ONE is also committed to ending extreme poverty around the world. Proper nutrition, safe drinking water and reliable community resources all play a role in children’s healthy development.

Last Updated

11/21/2015
27
Nov

Investing in Better Nutrition in the First 1,000 Days

Investing in Better Nutrition in the First 1,000 Days

Because nutrition lays the foundation for human health and development, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has joined the 1,000 Days campaign to help ensure children worldwide get the best possible start in life. The 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s 2nd birthday offers a unique window of opportunity to shape a healthier and more prosperous future. Nutrition during this window can have a major impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn, and rise out of poverty. It can also shape a society’s long-term health, stability and prosperity.

For children under the age of two, malnutrition can be life-threatening. It can weaken the immune system and make them more susceptible to dying from common illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. Investing in better nutrition in the 1,000 day window can help families, communities and countries break the cycle of poverty.

The AAP believes child nutrition is a health priority. Leading scientists, economists, and health experts agree that improving nutrition during the critical 1,000 day window is one of the best investments we can make to achieve lasting progress in global health and development. Good nutrition, healthy active living, and malnutrition and hunger prevention programs are critical for all children. The AAP supports programs that address these issues both in the U.S. and around the world.

Join the AAP and 1,000 Days to provide solutions to improve nutrition in the 1,000 day window that are readily available, affordable and cost-effective:

  • Promote good maternal and child nutritional practices, including exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months of life.
  • Treat malnourished children with special, therapeutic foods.
  • Raise awareness about the impact of poverty and food insecurity, screen for basic needs, and link families to community resources.
  • Facilitate access to health services and food-secure household environments.
  • Advocate for policies at the national, state, and local levels that help lift families out of poverty and promote good nutrition.

Last Updated

11/21/2015
27
Nov

Improving Access to Healthy Foods

Improving Access to Healthy Foods

Access to Grocery Stores vs. Convenience Stores

Did you know access to large grocery stores increases fruit and vegetable intake, whereas access to convenience stores decreases intake? Low income, minority, and rural neighborhoods have less access to supermarkets and healthful food but have increased access to convenience stores and the nutrient-poor, high-calorie foods that are often found in these food outlets.

In a study of neighborhoods in Detroit, increased access to supermarkets increased adult fruit and vegetable servings by 0.69 servings per day. White, black, and Hispanic adults all consumed more servings of fruits and vegetables when a large grocery store was present in their neighborhood, with the highest increase for Hispanic adults. Convenience stores significantly decreased fruit and vegetable intake among Hispanic adults.

Innovative Food Programs to Improve Access to Healthy Food

As the importance of access to healthy food is increasingly recognized, innovative food programs are gaining in popularity. Community gardens, suburban farms, and collaborations between backyard vegetable gardens and local food banks all offer ideas for solutions for inadequate access to fresh fruits and vegetables. City and state land use policies can affect the success of these types of programs. The ultimate effect of these programs on children’s health, particularly in vulnerable populations, remains to be seen.

Last Updated

11/21/2015
27
Nov

How to Inspire Generosity in Children

How to Inspire Generosity in Children

It’s important to help our children understand the need to give back, provide, share, and act generously. If we (as parents) act generously in front of children, they will learn how to give more freely.

Children Are More Generous When Others Are Aware of Their Actions

Researchers set up an experiment in which 5-year-olds were tested with their peers under differing circumstances of transparency and differing audiences (ie, if others could see into the container). They set up a sticker machine that in some settings was transparent (the child giving and child receiving could see how many stickers were up for grabs), and other settings in which only the giver of stickers knew how many stickers he could give. They had children give out stickers in both settings (transparent and opaque), being able to see the recipient or not.

The results were striking: children were consistently generous only when the recipient and audience of the stickers were fully aware of the donation options (4 stickers over 1 sticker, for example). Children were notably ungenerous when the recipient of stickers couldn’t see the options whatsoever. Having an audience present (seeing the recipient) and having the number of stickers be transparent affected children’s decisions to give. The researchers wrote, “One striking aspect of our results is that children were considerably ungenerous in our task. Indeed, children only showed consistently prosocial behavior in our study in the condition when they could see the recipient and their allocations were fully visible; in all other conditions, children were statistically ungenerous, giving the recipient the smaller amount of stickers.”

Researchers made the conclusions that children are differentially generous depending on what the recipient knows about how much you are able to give and if people are present to observe giving. Basically, children will be generous when those who are in need know how much they have to give. It seems when children can obscure their “wealth,” they don’t give as much away. When their friends are able to see their choices, children will give peers far more.

At a very early age, children are learning how to position themselves socially. Well before they have a handle on the sociology of their networks and what social reputation really means (normally around age 8), they think strategically about giving as a function of how they can gain a reputation with a peer as a generous citizen or pro-social agent when the recipient observes them.

Fostering Generosity at an Early Age

Recognize that children are influenced by how their generosity is observed and understood. Children may often think about giving under the lenses of competition.

It is known that when competitive constructs are present, children are less generous. So are adults. Therefore, we can help young children understand when competition is present and when it isn’t. If a soccer game really isn’t a tally of total goals, tell children implicitly. Allow them to learn how to pass the ball and share as teammates early and often. When they are set to compete, let that be clear. But allow situations of play and giving not to be about winning too.

Children modify their behavior in response to having an audience. Help children give to others in full view (donations to a school can drive or soup kitchen; delivering meals to families who need support) and in private or anonymously too (dropping off treats or surprises for those in your life with- out signing your name).

Remind children that thank-you notes are lovely but unnecessary to receive. As an adult, I’ve often heard people complain about not receiving a thank-you note. It’s as if the reason to give a gift was to be acknowledged rather than provide something wonderful for another person. When we give gifts or lend help to others, try to help children remember why—to provide something for another. It really doesn’t have to be recognized. When a thank-you card doesn’t come, it doesn’t make a gift any less valuable or meaningful for those who were lucky enough to receive.

Author
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, FAAP
Last Updated
11/21/2015
27
Nov

How to Get Involved With Your Child’s School

How to Get Involved With Your Child’s School

Fortunately, the relationship between parents and the school staff is usually quite good. In most instances teachers and principals welcome your input and your hands-on involvement in the school.

PTA & PTO Involvement

Active involvement in the parent-teacher association (PTA) or parent-teacher organization (PTO) is an excellent way to provide the school with your help and input in an organized way. In these days of budgetary restraints and two-career families, a parent who is able to volunteer even an hour or two a week is much appreciated.

Volunteering in the Classroom

Some parents enjoy volunteering in the classroom, working with students at a regular time each week, perhaps helping a small group with reading, arts and crafts, or computers. If you can volunteer in your child’s classroom on a weekly basis, let the teacher know early in the year, and work out a convenient time for both of you—a time when the children you will be working with are readily available and will not be out of class for a special education program or band practice.

Special Events

Schools often need help preparing and serving meals or refreshments for special events. Make sure your volunteer efforts coincide with the curriculum or the philosophy of the school or the teacher. If you have agreed to bring re­freshments for a class party, the teacher might want them to be healthy snacks to reinforce the nutrition education going on at school. Rather than cupcakes, the teacher might prefer a fruit platter.

Field Trips

Field trips and educational trips have become important means of giving children diverse experiences in the community which they can then use as springboards for writing and discussions. However, without parent chaperons, these excursions may not be possible. If you are able to volunteer, you will probably be responsible for a particular group of children. If you need lead time to plan your participation in these trips, ask the teacher for as much no­tice as possible.

Tips for Working Parents

Even if you cannot help out at your child’s school very often, try to do so at least once in a while. Even participating in one activity a year—accompanying a class on a field trip or helping out backstage on the day of a talent show—can mean a lot to your child. It will make him feel that his activities at school matter to you.

Many parents try to attend school events of which their children are a part. However, if there is an important event in your child’s school life that you sim­ply cannot attend because of work or other commitments, try to have some­one else there—a grandparent, an uncle, or a friend—who can give your youngster moral support and maybe even take pictures for you to look at later.

Policy-Making Involvement

Some parents are getting involved in the schools in another way—namely, on the policy-making level. Many schools have “site councils,” “parent advi­sory councils,” or “Healthy School Teams,” which help determine the direction of each school. Also, school boards need candidates for their seats, as well as volunteers to serve on special committees that evaluate everything from cur­riculum to school safety.

Occasionally, the relationship among teachers, administrators, and enthusi­astic mothers or fathers becomes strained and frustrating for all parties. Whether parents are lobbying for a new program for their child’s school or are trying to serve as an advocate for their own child, who might be having difficulty with a particular subject area or teacher, their input can sometimes be perceived as more disruptive than helpful, no matter how well-intentioned it may be.

To make your relationship with the school productive, show the staff re­spect, listen to their point of view, exhibit some flexibility, and find compro­mises whenever possible. Both you and the school have the same goal in mind—to educate your child—so try to work with the teacher and staff rather than assuming an adversarial stance.

Last Updated
11/21/2015
27
Nov

Helping Teens Connect With Their Community

Helping Teens Connect With Their Community

Teens can—and do!—improve the communities they live in.  While families provide the love and support needed for teens to become more independent, teens active in their community will:

  • Do better in school.
  • Find it easier to stay out of trouble.
  • Be less likely to become depressed or suicidal.

Why Should Teens Be Involved In Their Community?

  • Participating in community activities gives more opportunities to become an independent and successful adult.
  • It provides a group of friends who can help a teen learn more about themself and his taents and help him make better decisions.
  • By connecting with the community, a teen is never alone. He has a place to go and people to talk with when he needs it.
  • The more a teen helps others, the better he feels and the more likely that someone will be there for him.

How Your Teen Can Make Community Connections

Helping Others

  • Ask about service projects. Check with your child’s school or where you worship about volunteering at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, nursing homes, or child care centers.
  • Get involved in a political campaign.
  • Tutor children at the library or become a coach.
  • Help clean up the neighborhood.

Doing What They Love

  • Encourage your teen to try different things until he discovers his passion. Art, music, writing, drama, or sports are just some examples.

Keeping in Touch with Family Members

  • Teach your teen about her  family—both near and far. Get her to ask about family stories and history. Get in touch with family your teen has not met or has not seen for a while or plan a family reunion.

Getting to Know Neighbors

  • Have your teen talk with people who have different cultural backgrounds, religious or spiritual beliefs, and political values.

Nobody Succeeds Alone— Everyone Needs Help

There are many people in your community who can help your child succeed.

  • A teacher, coach, or counselor at school can help point your child in the right direction.
  • A neighbor, relative, friend’s parent, or your boss can give your child the advice he need to make decisions.
  • A spiritual leader or an adult at an after-school activity or club can help your child through a hard time.

Remember, being involved in the community will help your child become independent, develop new skills, and help others.

Last Updated
11/21/2015
27
Nov

Feed Families, Not Landfills

Feed Families, Not Landfills

Each year, Americans across the country are making difficult choices. Many people are forced to choose between buying food or buying medicine; parents are forced to go hungry so their children don’t, and working families are forced to choose between paying their utilities or putting food on the table.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, around 14 percent of American households do not get enough food to live active, healthy lifestyles. What makes this sad fact even harder to digest is this- a significant portion of the food tossed into our nations’ landfills is wholesome, edible food. By redirecting that unspoiled food from the landfill to our neighbors in need, an organization can support its local community; reduce its environmental impact, and save money.

What Kind of Food Can Be Donated?

Non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food can be donated to local food banks, soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters. Typical food bank donors include large manufacturers, supermarket chains, wholesalers, farmers, food brokers, and organized community food drives. Perishable and prepared foods are typically collected from restaurants, caterers, corporate dining rooms, hotels, and other food establishments for prompt distribution to hungry people in their communities. Donated food includes leftovers from events and surplus food inventory.

Check with your local food bank or food rescue operation (soup kitchen, shelter, etc.) to find out what items they will accept. Your local food bank will often pick up the donations free of charge, reducing warehouse storage and disposal costs.

Where Can I Donate Food?

Food pantries, food banks, and food rescue programs are available across the country to collect food and redistribute it to those in need. Local and national programs frequently offer free pick-up and/or reusable containers to donors

Food banks are community-based, professional organizations that collect food from a variety of sources and save the food in warehouses. The food bank then distributes the food to hungry families and individuals through a variety of emergency food assistance agencies, such as soup kitchens, youth or senior centers, shelters and pantries. Most food banks tend to collect less perishable foods such as canned goods because they can be stored for a longer time.

Food rescue programs take excess perishable and prepared food and distribute it to agencies and charities that serve hungry people such as soup kitchens, youth or senior centers, shelters and pantries. Many of these agencies visit the food bank each week to select fresh produce and packaged products for their meal programs or food pantries. Many also take direct donations from stores, restaurants, cafeterias, and individuals with surplus food to share.

Resources to Help You Find a Local Food Bank or Food Rescue Program in Your Area:

  • Feeding America – A national network of food banks that is the largest charitable hunger relief organization in America. It oversees the distribution of surplus food and grocery products through nearly 200 network affiliate food banks and nearly 50,000 charitable agencies. Locate a food bank near you.
  • Food Pantries  – Allows you to search for food banks by state or by zip code.
  • AmpleHarvest.org – This nationwide effort aims to educate, encourage and enable gardeners with extra produce to easily donate to a local food pantry.
  • Rock and Wrap It Up! – An independent anti-poverty organization devoted to developing innovative greening solutions to the pressing issues of hunger and poverty in America. They cover over 500 cities and work with a national database of over 43,000 shelters and places of need.
Last Updated
11/21/2015
27
Nov

Does Your Business Support the Schools?

Does Your Business Support the Schools?

A growing number of busi­nesses are affiliating themselves with local schools, giving time, money, and professional expertise to improve the educational system. What is the reason for this trend? Business leaders are recognizing that the schools alone cannot solve the complex problems that affect today’s children and families. They also are increasingly con­cerned about the quality of the workforce of the future.

As a way to improve their own employee pool down the road, businesses are ac­tively helping out in the following ways:

  • Adopt-a-school plans provide a variety of resources to a spe­cific school in the business’s own community.
  • Financial and other incentives are given to children for staying in school.
  • Investments have been made in teacher-training programs.
  • Employees are given time away from work to attend parent-teacher conferences.
  • Students are being invited to spend a day at a business in the community to see how it operates.
  • During lunch hours, businesses offer parenting and health-related classes to their workers.
  • Businesses that hire students as part-time after-school employees are taking greater responsibility for the possible negative effect this work may be having on the students’ performance at school.
Last Updated
11/21/2015
27
Nov

Creating Opportunities for Children & Teens to Contribute

Creating Opportunities for Children & Teens to Contribute

Confident young people who recognize their competencies, who feel connected to people, and who have a strongly rooted character are poised to contribute to the world.

Children and teens who take active steps to contribute will receive ongoing feedback and gain experiences that prepare them to thrive. Parents and communities who ensure ample opportunities for children to contribute will build the next generation of leaders.

How Contribution Fosters Resilience

Contemporary culture is so focused on material things like electronic equipment, expensive shoes and clothes, cosmetics, and cars. Children naturally get swept up in this tide because they see it all around them.

What Parents Can Do to Encourage Giving

To counter this influence or put it in perspective, parents can support opportunities for children to give rather than receive. Children will learn that the universe doesn’t revolve around them or owe them everything they desire. When they raise money for earthquake relief, collect recyclables, or tutor younger children, they gain a more realistic perspective of the world and their places in it. They begin to see beyond their isolated, self-oriented circles. They recognize themselves as part of larger communities in which they can make a difference.

How Children Can Contribute to Society

Children can contribute to society in a multitude of ways:

  • Collecting coins to feed the hungry
  • Cleaning up the environment
  • Volunteering with children who have physical disabilities
  • Spontaneous acts of generosity and courtesy such as holding open heavy doors for a parent pushing a baby stroller or someone carrying heavy bags

Contribution directly fosters resilience because it helps children gain a sense of purpose, something positive to strive toward and achieve.

Author

Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP
Last Updated
11/21/2015