You don’t need to wait until Random Acts of Kindness Week to teach your kids about kindness. The questions here will help your do-gooders understand what it means to give without expecting anything in return.
1. Ask your child: Would you rather make a friend something special for her birthday, or surprise her with something special for no particular reason at all?
Why you should ask: Every kid loves to be remembered on a big day or special occasion. Even more exciting: to be remembered for no reason other than being a really good friend.
What to do next: Encourage your child to be kind and caring. Any spontaneous, unexpected gesture of kindness (a cheer-up text or phone call, or even an unplanned visit) is a perfect way for a child to show her friends how much she cares.
2. Ask your child: Would you rather visit another state or country to join a service effort, or volunteer locally to help people in your own town?
Why you should ask: See if your child has an itch to travel and learn about the world at large, or whether he’d prefer to keep it local because his ties to your community are strong.
What to do next: Talk about what it might be like to volunteer in a new and unfamiliar setting. Would he embrace it or miss home? If he prefers to stay local, help him find ways to participate in organizations and charities that benefit citizens in need nearby.
3. Ask your child: Would you rather leave homemade cookies for your mail carrier, or hand out hot chocolate at a fire station?
Why you should ask: It’s important for kids to learn not to take anyone or anything for granted, from the superheroes of our communities (like EMTs, police, and firefighters) to mail carriers and others who work behind the scenes to keep our lives humming along.
What to do next: Help your child figure out ways to show local heroes he’s grateful for everything they do behind the scenes.
4. Ask your child: Would you rather donate clothes to a clothing drive, without getting to see others enjoy them, or serve food at a homeless shelter, where you can see the impact of what you’ve done?
Why you should ask: There are countless ways to give back—some are more hands-on than others, and kids may find some of those ways to be more rewarding. No matter how your children choose to give back, it’s important they know that all acts of kindness will make a difference.
What to do next: Give your kids a chance to sample different ways to be thoughtful and spread joy. In the process, they may learn more about what’s meaningful to them. Does a volunteer experience inspire them more if they can see the effect their compassion has on others? Perhaps that extra inspiration—and sense of purpose—may be enough to turn a one-time volunteer activity into a lifelong passion.
5. Ask your child: Would you rather participate in a fund-raiser for a family friend or someone in need, or assemble care packages to send strangers affected by a natural disaster?
Why you should ask: Show your child what it’s like to step up for friends and strangers. Teach her that nameless and faceless people are also in need of help and deserve empathy and compassion.
What to do next: Enlist your child’s help the next time you do something for someone in need. After all, the best way for kids to learn kindness is to see it in action! Your child will learn from your example that a thoughtful gesture is a meaningful way to show others you care.
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