According to Psych Central, empathy is a quality that kids aren't born with. In contrast to physical characteristics and even intelligence, children must be taught to care about others and the world around them. As a parent, you're the obvious choice for teaching your children valuable lessons that will cultivate compassionate, altruistic people.
A quick scan of most calendars will reveal a bounty of opportunities to educate your kids about worthy causes. Each month has a chock-full of awareness days from the frivolous to world-changing. Not that there's anything wrong with Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day, but there are plenty of awareness days that focus on more serious issues such as Holocaust Memorial Day and World Aids Day. Each one gives you a chance to introduce your kids to lessons that will affect them for a lifetime.
Safer Internet Day
On the surface, it might seem logical that Safer Internet Day would be all about cyber criminals and teaching your kids about the dangers that lurk on the World Wide Web. Although those are relevant issues you can incorporate and talk about during Safer Internet Day in February, the day is also about making the 'net a safe place for everyone. The Safer Internet Day website lists a number of activities that will foster good citizenship and safety with kids. Initiate a dinnertime discussion about being respectful and kind to others online. Encourage your children to support or defend someone who's being bullied on social networking sites. You can even help your kids establish a lunchtime friendly zone. Take a supply of juice boxes or a few dozen cookies and cupcakes to school for lunch break, to share with everyone. Set up a table where new or marginalized students are welcome and feel at ease. Internet safety doesn't end with the PC. Mobiles, laptops and talbets can be hacked from anywhere when connected to a public WiFi area. There are identity theft protection services that can help protect personal and financial information when accessed in a public area.
National Pet Day
Whether or not your family includes feathered or furry members, celebrating National Pet Day each April is an excellent way to teach your kids compassion and care for animals. The Humane Society of the United States reports that six to eight million dogs and cats go through U.S. animal shelters each year. Get involved by giving a monthly donation to a local shelter or the Humane Society. Even if your children's portion of the contribution is in cents rather than dollars, it will give them a sense of responsibility and ownership in the charity. Spend the day with your kids volunteering at a local shelter, walking the dogs, petting the cats or helping with clean up. If you do have pets at home, be sure to remember them with a little extra love and attention. Enlist your kids to help plan a treat or special meal for the furry members of the family.
World Kindness Day
You don't have to drag the family half-way around the globe and work in a third-world clinic to celebrate the November day set aside as World Kindness Day. Cultivate kindhearted children by challenging them to practice as many random acts of kindness throughout the day as they can. Get them started on the drive to school. Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in line at the pastry shop. Pick up and throw away litter along the way. Smile and wave to those who cross your path. Get the family together to rake the leaves or mow the lawn of an elderly neighbor. You can even get some ideas from the Random Acts of Kindness website. A prize could be awarded to the winner but, as cliché as it may sound, the real payoff will be the terrific feeling they get from spreading goodness. Have a discussion at the end of the day to explore those feelings and encourage your kids to make every day a kindness day.
Written by Michelle Collins.