Philanthroparent: A New Word for the Oxford English Dictionary

Even though it is not officially entered into the Oxford English Dictionary yet, selfie became the OxfordDictionaries.com 2013 International Word of the Year. It was chosen in part because its usage increased 17,000% between November 2012 and November 2013. Other Word of the Year winners in the 21st century within the UK or US: credit crunch, carbon footprint, locavore. New words that explode into use capture some of the trends and changes afoot in society. Why not help capture a new trend- parenting with a purpose- by adding two new words to popular culture?

Actually, anyone can propose a word for submission into the Oxford English Dictionary. To be considered, OED explains that the word typically has to be found within print by a published source and be “used with the expectation of being understood” – a word that people have a common understanding for that doesn’t require an explanation each time it is used.

I’d like to propose  two new words worthy of being included in future editions of the Oxford English Dictionary: #philanthroparent and #famanthropy. They signify a new era of socially conscious parenting. It starts with publishing them here. Use them. Introduce them to others. Let’s get this new parenting trend started!

Philanthroparent, n. : 1. A parent dedicated to exploring social consciousness with their family through philanthropy and service opportunities in the local and global community.  2. A parent reframing their family life towards more volunteer opportunities to raise community-minded global citizens.

Famanthropy, n. : The practice of family philanthropy, where family members collectively use their interests and talents to serve and better their community.

A Survivor’s Lesson

Last week at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles a survivor spoke to educators in training. On Holocaust Rememberance Day, just on the heels of the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, these words of social good resonate:

Learn to give and not feel sorry for yourself. To help a person- then you tap into the real beauty in life.

How to Have a Social Good Valentine’s Day

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I really enjoyed reading the recent article that parenting expert, Dr. Laura Markham, shared about how to rethink Valentine’s Day with simple actions that create deeper connections with the people we love.

As a philanthroparent, her last idea really resonated:

Love in Practice. If you’d like your kids to take pride in making the world a better place, Valentines Day is a great opportunity to express love for others by taking valentines goodies or homemade valentines to a nursing home, hospital, or soup kitchen.”

I’m always looking for ways to rethink our family activities and routines in ways that impact our social consciousness. Since this will likely be our daughter’s first Valentine’s Day that she will remember, why not use it as an opportunity to create a tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day through a lens of social good?

These ideas are different types of purposeful gifting that I’ve been musing and intend to try over the years- with my daughter’s increasing input, of course. I share them here in hopes that they spark action in your household, too.

The Gift of Your Time. As a teacher, the phrase “use your time wisely” probably came up in my class more times than can be counted. Now that I think back on it, what does that even mean to an elementary-age student?! I’d like to repurpose that phrase for Valentine’s Day into “use your time lovingly.” This is something that is much more concrete for a child. They can think of ways to be loving, and they’re learning what it looks like to be kind. Dr. Markham goes into many examples in her article of how to do that with the ones you love. You can expand this concept to encompass acts of kindness for others in the community. I love this article about a father and daughter who did random acts of kindness for their birthdays. It gives some great launching points for Valentine’s Day, but the best and most beautiful may come from your child’s imagination.

The Un-gift. Add a positive spin to the phrase “in lieu of,” which can commonly be associated with donations (rather than flowers) in memory of someone’s passing. It also has shown up at celebrations, like weddings, where a couple decides to redirect funds usually spent on party favors towards a charity that resonates with them. So why not use “in lieu of” for smaller occasions, like Valentine’s Day? Rather than using store-bought valentines or creating elaborate ones, use the money saved to support an organization of your family’s choosing. Then, use what you already have at home to create a simple “in lieu of” card.

The Gift-It-Forward. I agree with Dr. Markham on this: Valentines Gifts are NEVER about the item or product. At the least, it is about the thought that goes into the gift. She argues that you need not even purchase a gift! But if you were to purchase a gift, could you find one that serves a need? How about donating a box of produce to a low income family of food pantry? For our daughter’s birthday, we worked with CommuniGift, where we asked our guests to support our “birthday buddy.” They could purchase a simple gift for a child in need online instead of adding to our own toy collection. If you’re hosting a Valentine’s Day party, the same concept could apply.

The Inside-Out Gift. Dr. Markham points out that sometimes we as parents may be “too busy, too broke, and maybe even too harried” to be able to make the most of this holiday with our families. Thankfully, her ideas call to attention that Valentine’s Day does not have to be elaborate or a reflection of our consumer prowess. Instead, it can be a time for reflection. It allows you to acknowledge and show gratitude for the people you love in your life. And if you’re a philanthroparent, showing kindness and compassion to others is an important part of your family values, too. If your circumstances do not allow you to look outward towards gifts, celebrations and date-nights this year, you can choose to look inward instead. This loving-kindness meditation is one way to do that. It’s guided practice in sending goodwill to others. This one is also a gift to yourself- besides being cost-free, it may help you to feel less harried.

photoSimply put, carry this quote by Maya Angelou with you as you decide how to celebrate with your family this year: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Amidst cards and gifts, what will be the lasting feeling that remains when the day is done?  With these ideas for purposeful gifting, I hope you have a (social) good Valentine’s Day!

The Day My 3-Year-Old Did Multiplication (By Giving to Others)


Although that may sound impressive, it’s not exactly what you would think. Perhaps she has learned something even better, though. She used giving to find out what multiplication looks and feels like in real life, and these tangible experiences for young children are a powerful way to learn and reinforce new concepts (like multiplication). When our family was introduced to CommuniGift as her third birthday approached, I already sensed that it was an opportunity to grow the impact of our family giving, but I didn’t anticipate the added bonus of our daughter learning multiplication, too.

CommuniGift was founded upon the belief that all children, no matter their circumstance, deserves to feel special on their birthday. For some families, the opportunity to throw a birthday party, or even purchase a gift for their child is out of reach. Meanwhile, as we selected a play place, ordered food, and chose the cake, the spirit behind CommuniGift reminded me that this was plenty. Simone had more than enough to make her feel special on her birthday.

We discovered that through CommuniGift’s interface, rather than having our guests bring presents to her party, we could invite them to donate gifts to her virtual “birthday buddy” instead. (more…)

Summer of Inclusion

la2015-logoIn just under a month The Special Olympics comes to Los Angeles. From July 25th through August 2nd during #LA2015, parents will have a unique opportunity to live messages of inclusivity and global citizenship with their families, reinforcing the kinds of qualities that we hope will become part of the fabric of our children’s lives. Philanthroparent is happy to coach you through a few exercises to help you embrace the spirit of the games.

The Warm-ups

There are several activities you can do from home to build momentum for the events:

*Make welcome cards or signs for the athletes (in their native tongue if you wish). Check out the delegations list. Or, explore your family’s heritage through the cultural connections the delegations can provide.

*Make a Circle of Inclusion– an official symbol for the games. Take pictures of your family, neighbors and friends within it. Share your snapshots on social media with #ReachUpLA.

*Consider your own family’s stories of determination and explore the #whatsonething series about athletes overcoming things they were told they could never do… but did anyways.

*Support An Athlete. Your support with help assure an athlete’s successful journey at the games.

The Main Event

*Simply attend the games, which are FREE and open to the public!

*Who else can you invite? What people or community organizations that you are already connected with would support the spirit of these games? What sports teams are your family members a part of that could drum up even more support?

*Teens 14 and over can become a “Fans in the Stands” – recruit your own delegation of cheering fans for one of the sporting events.

*Check out the Volunteer Opportunities for teens ages 16 − 18.

The Special Olympics bring an even stronger connection to the valuable lessons that sports can provide. If you have sports fans in your household, you can use #LA2015 to also introduce concepts of acceptance and inclusion into their socially conscious lives. It’s a win-win. See you at the games!

A Picture Can Say A Thousand Words (When You’re Not Sure What to Say)

Sometimes breaking news reveals terrible tragedies. Each family must use their own best judgement to decide if (and how) they expose their children to these difficult stories. These decisions can be based on your child’s age, emotional temperament, or previous family discussions on a similar topic- simply to mention a few of the factors you might consider. Even if you decide not to share certain events with your child, they may be exposed to them as they go about their daily life at school or in the community.

I will one day be faced with the difficult task of discussing headlines like that of the recent attacks in Paris with my child. What can I take away from this event that will help me be prepared for these conversations in the future? The best lessons thus far came for me through this simple, powerful image by artist Lucille Clerc:

  • A picture can say a thousand words that you might not know how to say. Images or picture books can be powerful conduits for discussion. You and your child can explore a concept together through these tools versus conducting a top-down conversation from parent to child. In fact, through discussion, you may find that your child can say the thousand words you don’t know how to say.
  • If you’re not sure what to say, be gentle with yourself. You may not always have the right words at every challenging moment. You may have your own emotions to process, making it harder to express yourself.
  • Sometimes simplicity is best. Over-explaining might leave even more uncertainty, especially when there are no easy answers.
  • Consider what your community might have to offer in helping you lead a well-rounded conversation. Are there trusted friends and family members, school personnel, or community leaders that can augment your thoughts and ideas?
  • Tomorrow is another day. How can I balance each difficult concept we work through together with a more hopeful message, relieving some of the insecurity my child may feel alongside these events?

Lastly, service to others.

This is what as a parent I choose to write with my newly sharpened pencil. Volunteering is a tangible way to put pencil to paper with our children- an active way to process difficult events. The growth, teamwork, purpose, and support that is built through service- these can be the messages of hope we can write in permanent ink.

Socially Conscious Apartment Living Through the Eyes of a Toddler

Our family is soon to embark on a new adventure: moving into a new home. While reflecting on our apartment life, I realized there were some meaningful lessons of social and environmental consciousness that arose from raising our daughter in this space. I will always be grateful for this experience with her. We hear about “The American Dream” partly being the ability to own a home with a yard, but when this is not possible it is important to remember that valuable life lessons come from a wide variety of different environments our children are exposed to- the grocery store, park, library, classroom, and ANY kind of living space that you call home. There are a few ways I think life in an apartment has influenced my daughter’s foundation of social awareness, and while I am not a social scientist researching the differences between a home and apartment upbringing, I do often wonder how our approach to some things as a family might have differed had we not shared this time here together. These are the stories I want to pass on to my daughter about her early years in our apartment. IMG_1690 - Version 2

“Hello!” We’re lucky to live in a friendly complex where people are willing to engage with my daughter. Frequent interactions with other residents have offered her extra opportunities to see the value and joy of eye contact, friendly greetings and simple conversations. Every time we talk with the staff at our apartment complex, someone joins us on the elevator, or we pass by another resident in the courtyard, Simone has learned to greet them with a friendly hello and goodbye. And it seems like these face-to-face interactions have helped lay the groundwork for her approach to people when we’re out on the town, too. It’s as if every day she celebrates World Hello Day.

“Big trash truck!” From our bedroom windows, we see a multitude of trash trucks make their weekly rounds to our complex and neighboring buildings. We walk past the (sometimes overflowing) trash bin as we go to and from our car in the parking garage each day. This gives us much more frequent exposure to the waste we’re collectively producing. I count our daughter’s first self-discovered societal issue as her acknowledgement of “too much trash” one afternoon when we walked past the teeming dumpster in the garage.  The messages to become more aware of our household waste are all around us, like in the provocative video, The Story of Stuff, but it is powerful to hear it from the voices of our children. Her early recognition of this issue was what solidified my commitment to try composting at our new home.

“Let’s go outside!” Like many toddlers, our daughter needs an opportunity to wander, push physical boundaries and release seemingly endless energy. We need to go beyond the walls of our apartment on a regular basis, and since our doors open to a small patio instead of a yard, we often rely on public spaces to get our fix of adventure and exploration. We visit parks, trails, community gardens, farmer’s markets, college campuses and art installations (to name some favorites). After recently discovering the term placemaking, I’m even more committed to enjoying public spaces with my family, acknowledging their shared value and importance in defining our community.

“More shoes?” Could the term “paring down” have something to do with the amount of shoes some people own these days? A moment of reflection came when I was cleaning out my daughter’s closet following a growth spurt. As she looked on and I took out another pair of her now too-small shoes, she voiced one of her first questions: “More shoes?” Admittedly, this is one area where I had not done my due diligence in using our limited square footage appropriately. Living with little storage space is a healthy check on my consumerism, especially surrounding my child’s belongings. How many more times would I be fooled by the old childhood trick of playing with a new toy for one week, then quickly replacing it with an invented toy from kitchen cookware or a fort from old sheets and pillows. I’ve begun discussions amongst friends about doing monthly toy swaps in place of a constantly cramped toy closet at our new home. I’m also thinking of setting a quarterly reminder to re-read this article from Apartment Therapy to make sure that my paring down promises have stuck.

Toddlers are curious about people, think trash trucks are pretty cool, like playing outside and can make a toy out of just about anything. Can the societal issues described here be explored from a house? Yes. This account does not suggest that my daughter is any more exceptional than any other two-year-old. I’m just thankful that our apartment offered our family so many rich opportunities to explore these areas and think critically about how they play out in our lives. As we bid farewell next week, I offer this ode to our apartment for influencing our family practices and values. Thank you for these gifts of social consciousness.

Trick-and-Treat Others the Way You’d Like to Be Treated

If you only had a dollar for every time you heard the word “candy” during Halloween season. You’d be able to make a pretty sizable donation to your favorite charity! Philanthroparent would like to put that word to #socialgood use. Using the acronym CANDY, here’s some smart ideas for helping this Halloween.

Costumes

Start a costume drive with your school, neighborhood or group of friends. Collect new and gently used costumes for a nonprofit that works with local families in need. Costumes could be collected ahead of time for this holiday, or if your residence is a Halloween hub, ask people to bring costumes when they come to trick-or-treat (for kids’ benefit next year). You could also focus on your own costumes. You’ll likely see plenty of superhero costumes being worn. What message of social good could you share with what you wear? Introduce your children to some real-life characters who have been champions for change and social good. I’ve seen Gandhi, Philippe Cousteau and John Wooden costumes get rave reviews. Maybe you can challenge your family or Halloween party guests to a design-your-own superhero theme (invent characters that addresses a real-world cause). You could also just go as a real-world problem. A 2014 pick: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Advocating

Halloween is a holiday favorite, but perhaps there is a gentle way to discuss with your children some of the potential challenges that come with this occasion. You might start by asking, “Halloween is so much fun for our family, but can you think of any challenges some people might face for this holiday?” The discussion might lead to the topic of sugar overloads, not being able to afford a costume, litter on the street the next morning, or not having proper warm clothes/shoes to stay comfortable while trick-or-treating in the cold. Maybe they will recognize that not everyone has a residence or neighborhood that allows for trick-or-treating. Whatever the need is that they discover, see if you can help them find an organization that supports this cause. Give them a voice to advocate for their socially conscious revelation! Ask the organization for pamphlets that could be handed out with candy or as you’re out and about trick-or-treating.

Nutrition

It’s easy for parents to develop a love/hate relationship with this holiday. Kids are bubbling with excitement and imagination. Tons of priceless family photos are captured in costume. However, there’s late bedtimes, lost costume accessories and… the dreaded battle over how much candy is collected and consumed. Discuss with your family how to balance this day of candy gluttony with good nutrition.  What other healthy habits can be reinforced on this day? Maybe toothbrushes could be a quirky party favor or hostess gift. Plan the Halloween menu with your children so that they are coming up with creative, healthy food options too. A printed menu with your nutritious ideas could be passed out to families visiting your door or party guests. If you can’t seem to conjure up your own menu ideas, this Pinterest page has you covered!

Donate

Haunted houses and creepy costumes are scary, but they don’t compare to the real-world concerns of some families, like a parent struggling to provide clean water or nutritious food for their children. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is a fundraising campaign to help address the basic needs of children all over the world. You can set up your own fundraising page that can be shared with friends and family. UNICEF also has teaching tools that can help you explain these concepts to your children. These world issues might be a bit scary for kids to think about but (as the campaign says), it’s also a chance for them to realize it’s “scary how much good you can do.”

Yard Sale

Beware! This is the most daring of all the service ideas here. Think of all the people coming back and forth towards your door, especially if you live in a well-trafficked trick-or-treating neighborhood. You wouldn’t have to do any advertising for a yard sale- the customers are already coming to you anyway! This could be a joint operation amongst families or a social group you’re a part of. Money from items sold could be donated to a local charity. You could even make it Halloween themed by selling secondhand decorations or costumes. It doesn’t have to be a “yard sale” per se. A witches brew lemonade stand or haunted labyrinth in your front yard might spark your kids’ interests more.

Halloween is a holiday for the imagination. These ideas are a starting point, but more importantly, let your child’s cauldron of creativity bubble over. We’d love for you to share your own family’s ideas in the comments. Wishing you a happy, healthy (and helpful) Halloween!

As it is in the art of teaching, so it often is in the art of parenting. Take this quote from Leo Buscaglia in Living, Loving, Learning. So much inspiration can be shared between these two professions.

“Maybe the essence of education is not to stuff you with facts, but to help you to discover your uniqueness, to teach you how to develop it and then to teach you how to give it away.”