As parents, we like to shield our kids from pain and keep the magic alive as long as we can. Children have a strong sense of fairness and injustice—rather than shielding them from reality, we should teach them to look at the world around them through the lens of compassion and equality.
I learned something important this year through an unexpected act of kindness.
Right before I walked into the store with my son, we made a deal. He will get to pick out one thing for himself and allow me to browse the kitchenware section uninterrupted.
My uninterrupted browsing of the kitchenware section lasted about 5 minutes. My son approached me and asked me for a dollar after he already picked something for himself. When I told him no, he proceeded to ask over and over and again—”Can I have a dollar?” I had a choice to make. Give in or scream. I chose the former by reason of preserving my decency in public.
As we walked out of the store, my son stopped and approached a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk. He walked up to him, handed him the dollar and wished him a good day. I did not notice him when we walked in and I was not aware of my son’s intention with the dollar bill. I was proud of him and I suddenly realized that my child is keenly aware of the world around us—the good, the bad and the ugly.
The expectations that we set out for our kids often include our hopes for them to attend a good college, get good grades in school or succeed as an athlete. You may also have to brush teeth twice a day without being told on that list. How about becoming a good person? It is never too early to help children better understand the issues that surround us and teach them the importance of serving the world.
We all want to make the world a better place. Here are 5 things to keep as a New Year’s resolution and accomplish with your kids in 2019. If you start now, they will be well prepared to make a difference by the time they are all grown up!
1. Share some stories
Begin by reading books together that tackle important issues such as human rights or racism. Remind them of the books that you have read together when questions about topics arise in our everyday life. It helps them connect the dots and understand complexities in simple terms through stories.
2. Empower them to use their voice
They might be little and they might not be old enough to open a bank account, but they deserve to have their voices heard. Involve your kids in family decisions to show them how their input matters. Teach them to speak up and stand up for themselves when they encounter something unjust.
3. Discuss the issues and events impacting the world
Our kids are plugged into their electronic devices, the internet, and social media more than we would like to believe. They most likely read somewhere or heard from someone what is happening in our country. Discuss issues and events with them to help them understand problems and figure out solutions. Ask them what they think!
4. Teach them the difference between social justice and acts of charity
When my son handed the dollar bill to the homeless man on the street, he understood that the dollar bill may contribute to a meal, but he did not know about the root cause of the problem. Explain to kids that social justice means the equal distribution of wealth, privileges and opportunities. Let them know that an act of charity intends to meet someone’s immediate need on a short-term basis, while social justice is about getting to the root of the problem.
5. Turn social justice learning into action
Next year, volunteer together. It will teach your kids how to turn their understanding of social justice into action and it also provides a great bonding experience. Sign up to package food at your local food bank. Food sorting events are a great way to get them started on giving back to the community.
Kids are smarter than we think. They are not only aware of the issues surrounding us, but they are also living in this reality. Let’s give them the opportunity to learn and guide them on the path toward becoming compassionate human beings. I learned something that day in the store. Being a good parent is not always about keeping the rules in place—it is about allowing our kids to push those boundaries and giving them permission to stand up for what they believe in.
Written by: Simona Grace
Simona Grace is a writer and mom with a career in publishing. After spending her childhood in Hungary, she moved to the United States to pursue her academic goals.She graduated from UCLA, summa cum laude, with a degree in Comparative Literature and she is fluent in 3 languages. Her work explores parenting topics at the intersection of culture and societal issues. She is passionate about women’s rights, immigration, as well as refugees and she strives to contribute to our world by sharing her voice and experience as a single mom and an immigrant. Her work was previously published on Scarymommy. You can follow her on Instagram @simona__grace.