Hi again! So nice to *see* you back here on the blog. For those of you who missed my first two blogs on Being the Parent You Want to Be in the New Year, I’d love for you to check them out here and here. Why? Well, because today’s post gives you some ways to build that empathy practice I’d described, and provides you with a plan to have those meaningful conversations with your kids about the things that matter most.
One topic in the “things that matter most” category is tikkun olam, or repairing the world. For little kids, the idea of repairing the world can seem a bit abstract, I know, yet there are tons of ways to make this concept real and significant to them. What you’ll need to do is create hands-on (experiential) learning opportunities for them, so they can see, feel and touch what it means to do their part to make this world a better place.
Below are a few steps you can take to practice tzedakah (to do what is right and just) with your kids. Not only is this a great way to contribute to our community as a family, starting this when they’re young will create habits and patterns they’ll continue for the rest of their lives.
Get Your Tzedakah Box. Whether you make this a craft project and create one together, buy one in the store, or use the awesome, sturdy box you got for free from PJ library, having something that represents your commitment to tikkun olam is really important. You can use this as a place to hold money until you donate it, and/or a location to place pieces of paper where you write down where you plan to volunteer your time.
Create a Plan for Giving. In our family, we made the decision that any money we find in the street, or change we find around the house gets put into the tzedakah My husband and I also take the change out of our wallets every few days to contribute it. In all of these cases, our kids actually put the money in the tzedakah box, as we want them to feel the pleasure of filling it up.
Use this as a math/life lesson. Each week, set aside time to count up the money in the box with your kids. Once you have a total, talk about what that amount buys in your home, so as to give them a sense of what the things they need and want cost. This is a great set-up for helping them understand that there are people who do not have enough money for what they need, and that your family is going to help those people with this money.
Choose a Recipient. Now’s the time to speak with your kids about where they’d like to donate the money. Explain that while you won’t be giving directly to a person or an animal, there are places you can give the money that will help those in need. Do you kids love animals? Maybe make a donation to a local animal shelter. Did they notice the people with signs standing at stop lights and wonder what they are doing? Help them understand there are people who don’t have food or houses, and donate the money to a homeless shelter or buy products with money and donate the products (baby formula, kids’ books, socks, warm shoes, coats, feminine hygiene products, etc.).
Just as we feed our kids nutritious foods to create good eating habits, and provide them with learning opportunities to build their minds, helping them practice tzedakah when they’re very young nurtures their hearts and spirits, and lays the foundation for that all-important empathy practice in their lives.
I’d love to hear what you decide to do with your kids! Leave a comment below with your plans – and remember, sharing your practice may just help another family figure this out, too. I can’t think of a better way to build our community’s commitment to tikkun olam than sharing our ideas with one another.
Dr. Alison Trachtman Hill is the founder of Critical Issues for Youth, a sociologist, and mom of two. Check out her new e-learning platform for parents at www.ci4y.com. Alison and her family recently moved to Denver, CO from Westchester, NY.