I am the mother of a 5 and 7 year old. I am a conscientious parent so I am beginning to think about how to teach my children about community service. I want my kids to be justice oriented, aware and appreciative of differences, and immersed in the joy of giving. Being Jewish, I want to teach them the mitzvot and help them become active and generous community members, engaged in "repairing the world."
I know that parents are the most important teachers, whether we like it or not, so it's on me to pass these values along. But, I will be honest, I bristle at the notion of making up a community service project and doing it, rather than living as someone who serves my community. What I really want to teach my children is to become people who see being of service as part of their daily lives. Recently, a neighbor's experience crystallized things for me.
Last week, my neighbor, with whom my children and I interact frequently, confided in me that her two year old son has been diagnosed with PDD, which is on the autism spectrum. It was such a revelation. Suddenly, and if you are a parent with a child who's finally gotten the right diagnosis you understand, so much made sense. What an odd mixture of feelings I felt from her and for her: relief at understanding her son's behaviors, fear about what this would mean for her and his life, questions like "What do we do now?" and "How can we help?"
I teach and want to focus on the positive, so I stopped right there. In the midst of all the other emotions, I feel a tiny bit grateful to have been offered the opportunity to authentically serve our community, and teach my children while I am at it. How can we help best? Intending to find out, I've asked my neighbor to invite me AND MY CHILDREN (who interact with her son regularly) to the next home meeting with their therapists and advisers. There, together, as a community, we will learn how to help this little boy and his parents.
How to be of service to the community is one of the most important life skills you can teach your children. And believe me when I say that the experiences that result will be among the most enjoyable and fulfilling that you and your child have together. Absolutely everybody wins! As you look for a meaningful community service outlet for your children, please consider:
1) What will your child authentically connect to? There are literally thousands of ways to be of service--maybe it's working with animals, caring for the sick and disabled, raising money a cause, or using technology to raise awareness.
2) Who needs help that is near by? Trying looking for things you can do "locally." This will allow your child to see the positive results of his or her efforts, reinforcing the values you are trying to instill.
3) Will you join in yourself? Your children are learning everything from watching you, and, for good or for bad, kids do what their parents DO, not what they say or teach.
Owner, Partners with Parents