Let’s start with this baseline assumption: We all want our kids to be good people and care about others.
We want them to visit their grandparents, sit with the new student at lunch and help a neighbor walk their dog. What do all of these things have in common?
They involve helping others.
Social distancing, as we’re now locked inside our homes in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, is a tough task when you’re raising kids, especially if we want to teach them how to help others while keeping their distance from each other.
But it can be done.
Check out this list of ideas for how to incorporate acts of kindness into your new daily routine while staying safe at home.
1. Turn Coloring Time into Making Get Well Cards
Organizations like Cards for Hospitalized Kids take your get well cards and put them in the hands of sick kids across the nation. Right now, when rules about contact are stricter than ever, hospital patients might be seeing fewer visitors than usual. Your kids can brighten someone’s day by mailing handmade cards to show you care. Got to cardsforhospitalizedkids.com to learn more.
2. Clean Out Your Closet and Donate Used Toys and Clothes
Now is the perfect time to start spring cleaning. Get the kids involved by asking them to find toys and clothes they’ve outgrown and put them in a bin. With businesses and restaurants closing, many parents are out of work and not getting paid. Your gently used items will benefit another family and help the environment by extending the usefulness of materials. Thanks to websites like Donation Town, you won’t even have to leave your house to make a donation. Or consider dropping off items in donation bins at your local Salvation Army or thrift store.
3. Recycle Old Books by Giving to Little Libraries
All around town are Little Free Libraries, tiny book houses in lawns and on sidewalks. Inside are a collection of books, lovingly donated for someone new to borrow and read. Kids and adults can drop off books or take them. Ask your kids to clear their bookshelves and make a stack to donate. Then, take a ride to drop off books somewhere near you. To find a list of locations for Little Free Libraries, visit Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank at kidsbookbank.org.
4. Stop Online Gaming and Start Advocating
Chances are your older kids are already online, playing games, chatting with friends or watching their favorite shows. Suggest they carve out some time to research organizations that support causes they care about. Have them make protest-style posters as if they are going to a rally. See if they want to produce their own “Why I Care” video, in which they discuss what makes them passionate about their cause. You can share the video online and show them the positive reactions for using their voices for good.
Want to keep going? You can work together to raise money for your cause through a reputable non-profit organization.
That’s what fourth-grader Tyler Ettkin did in support of his big brother, Dylan, who was born with a congenital heart defect.
“We’ve been donating to the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital as well as the American Heart Association since Dylan was born,” says his mom, Lisa. “I believe getting my kids involved builds character and an appreciation of what’s important in the world.”
Dylan started giving back from the time he was in kindergarten.
“He recognized early on that he was fortunate and there were kids whose lives weren’t the same,” says Lisa, who helped Dylan donate his birthday gifts each year.
Tyler followed in his brother’s footsteps.
“When I was younger, I used to go to the Cleveland Clinic with my brother,” says Tyler. “The people looked like they were having a rough time there. I wanted to give them a hug, but they were strangers, so I had to come up with another way to make them happy.”
For the Ettkin family, heart health always has been the cause that means the most to them. That’s why Tyler also participated in the annual Kids Heart Challenge, an interactive way for kids to learn about their own hearts while raising funds for the American Heart Association.
“I’m excited about raising money for other kids — kids with hearts that don’t exactly work right,” wrote Tyler on his personal fundraising web page, which also shows that he exceeded his goal and raised $662 this year.
While at home, you also can find a cause your whole family is excited about and share that passion with others. By inviting people to join, you’re giving them an opportunity to make a difference with you.
Check out these popular causes your kids might like to support:
To support kids like Dylan, start your own fundraiser for American Heart Association at heart.org
For kids who love animals, check out the Ohio SPCA at ohiospca.org
For kids who think books are the best, try Reading is Fundamental at rif.org
For kids who know someone touched by cancer, visit American Cancer Society at cancer.org
5. Be Kind to Yourself — and Kids Will be Kind, Too
These are unprecedented times. Remember that your sanity counts, also. When you’re kind to yourself, take care of yourself and show your kids that maintaining a sense of normalcy matters for both you and them, you’re modeling important behaviors. Organizations like UNICEF are publishing useful information on how to talk to your kids about COVID-19. Establishing a routine, allowing space to share emotions, and staying calm are just a few of the tips. Helping others often means outside of your own home, but you might want to look inward first. What are a few things that would bring you closer together as a family? Taking a walk after dinner now that you don’t have to rush off to activities? Setting up a family movie night now that you can all stay up a little later? Brainstorm a few ideas together!
Dahlia Fisher is a writer, artist, motivational speaker and workshop leader. You can follow her on her blog (dahliafisher.com) to learn more about her year facing new challenges to practice living with more presence and purpose in 2020.