By Wendy Kupfer
Have you ever been on a family outing and your children totally embarrass you by reacting inappropriately to seeing a handicapped child in a wheelchair?
Did they ever stare and point at a group of young people signing and enjoying each other in silence?
Can you imagine that feeling of wanting to dig a giant hole and climb in as quickly as possible?
Fortunately there is much parents can do to avoid such awful scenarios. We need to try our best to anticipate situations before they actually happen, because as we all know, kids will be kids!
Questions to ask yourself
What kind of person do you want your child to become? Do you want them to be sensitive and respectful of others? Do you want them to be grateful or have a sense of entitlement? Do you want them to contribute in a meaningful way to those less fortunate? Do you want them to be accepting of others? Will your child grow into a bully, or be the one that helps another child in trouble?
Parents need to reflect and ask themselves if they are the setting the best example as a role model for their children. Don’t forget about your non-verbal clues because children really do learn what they see at home. It is critical that as a parent you mirror the character traits that you want for your children. Children are very observant and you may be inadvertently passing onto them some of your own less than desirable behaviors (we all have them).
One of the overarching themes of my children’s book, Let’s Hear It For Almigal, is that we are all special in different ways. Over the years I have learned that there are very specific things parents can do to teach their children to embrace our differences and be sensitive to others, especially those less fortunate.
Children need to experience the good feelings you get from helping others and volunteerism should be introduced at a young age. Teach your kids to do simple, but thoughtful things for others.
Activities to nurture thoughtfulness
- Together you can make get well cards or cookies for someone who is ill.
- You can make (or buy) a piggy bank that’s just for charity. Kids can save their pennies and make a donation to an organization that is meaningful for them, at the end of the year.
- Take toys and books your children have outgrown and donate to a local hospital or library, but be sure to include your children in delivering these gifts.
- Go to your local craft store and buy supplies for your children to make baseball caps for kids with cancer.
- I recently read about a post-it wall and I instantly loved this idea. You can call it the “Good Deed Wall.” Each member of the family has a color post-it that belongs to them. (Almigal’s would definitely be pink!) Every time a good deed is done, it gets written on the post-it and hung on the wall (or the refrigerator). Kids love being recognized for doing good deeds.
- Studies have shown that it’s very important to teach our children to be grateful. Counting your blessings is another activity that nurtures the character traits of acceptance and empathy. How about a gratitude journal? Kids enjoy looking through magazines for pictures and cutting and pasting. Why not cut and paste things you are thankful for into their very own gratitude book?
- You can also work with your local civic organizations and participate in beach or park clean-ups, visits to nursing homes and writing pen pal letters to children who are sick.
- This past May I had the pleasure of reading Almigal to a group of students that were blessed to be in a classroom with a truly amazing teacher. The children were wearing necklaces with charms and I inquired what that was all about. In this case it was a reading project and they added a charm every time they read another book. Why not go to the craft store and get necklaces and charms for each time your child does a good deed or something really kind?
All of these ideas are really quite simple, but have lasting impressions.
There are also a few books that are excellent for starting a discussion about disabilities and counting your blessings…
Recommended reading to teach kids about empathy
- It’s OK to Be Different by Todd Parr
- My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
- Chocolate Me by Taye Diggs and Shane Evans
- A Birthday for Ben by Kate Gaynor
- Don’t Call Me Special by Pat Thomas
- The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
- Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud
- Star of the Week by Barney Saltzberg
- Exclamation Mark! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
- Making Friends Is an Art by Julia Cook
- Wonder by R. J. Palacio (Ages 8-12)
- And of course, Let’s Hear It For Almigal by yours truly
Huge thanks to Working Moms Against Guilt for inviting me to guest blog! I would like to add that I am not a doctor, a psychologist or a teacher. I am simply a mom and grand-mom who hopes that after 60 years on earth, I have acquired some small amount of wisdom to share and that someone might want to read it.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Wendy Kupfer knows Almigal’s story well. Doctors diagnosed her daughter Ali at the age of 10 months with a profound hearing loss and predicted she would never speak, but the doctors underestimated this unbeatable mother-daughter team. Wendy ’s dedication and drive, paired with Ali’s hard work and determination, produced one spunky, confident “chatterbox” and two passionate advocates for the deaf and hard of hearing.
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