Time-Saving Tips to Add Giving into Your Busy Back-to-School Schedule

Summer can be carefree, whimsical, unstructured, and it can come with some quality time with our kids. But, let’s face it. Sometimes the start of school is a welcome change for parents. School can add some consistency to the day that might not be present during those lazy days of summer. It sort of fits with the notion that the busier you are, the more you get done.

But as the school bells ring, the schedules start, and as the after-school activities and homework kick into gear, a Philanthroparent remembers these words:

“Never be so busy as not to think of others.”-Mother Teresa

In the hustle and bustle of daily life as our kids go back to school, how can we still honor our commitment to giving back? Reflect on these principles:

1. Work it in vs. Add it on. Instead of analyzing your schedule to figure out how to make more time for philanthropy, see how philanthropy connects to something already going on in your family members’ daily lives. Instead of rushing out to get yet another last-minute party gift, help your child to research an organization you can make an online donation to- one that supports a cause the honoree can connect with. If you’re buying a new ______ (fill in the blank) , discuss with your child where the previous item might get the most use in your community if it’s donated.

2. Use your interests, skills and talents. Reframe the things your family likes to do already by putting a social purpose spin on it. If you already get enjoyment out of riding bikes together, plan ahead to get somewhere by bike instead of by car. If your kids are helping to make dinner or dessert tonight, double the recipe and go say thank you to your local ______ (let your kid decide). Don’t just donate stuff. Find a place to donate your child’s talent too- art, music, technology skills, etc. They might get in some valuable practice time without you nagging them about it for once!

3. Listen. Keep your ears open to comments that reflect your child’s concern for things they see in the community, world issues they overhear on the news, or conflicts they are having with friends. Finding action to address these concerns might give them a sense of control and alleviate any anxiousness surrounding these thoughts, thereby also saving the time that worrying can take up.

4. Get support. Seek out systems already in place that help show your child the value of social responsibility. You don’t have to create these opportunities all on your own for them. Have you considered girl or boy scouts, a Kid’s Care Club, or a program that focuses on civic-mindedness and leadership like KidUnity? Your child’s school might be a perfect place to get support for your ideas: a community service coordinator, the PTA, or even your child’s classroom teacher might know of programs to support your family’s community service endeavors.

5. Take something out. Believe it or not, service to others (or the earth) doesn’t have to be something that takes extra time. Think of what great quality time could come from taking something out of the schedule. “Let’s skip going to the car wash this weekend to help us remember to save water during the drought we’re facing. You get to pick something fun that we could do with that hour instead!” Set up a challenge one month for each family member to think of something they could cut out of the daily routine that saves a resource and creates a cooky family activity instead. Candlelight homework, anyone? Just don’t be shocked if your child proposes to skip the dishes or a shower.

As the school year kicks into gear and you wonder how you’re going to make time for social purpose parenting, remember that social and environmental consciousness can benefit others and your family at the same time. Philanthroparents might not favor the saying, “kill two birds with one stone,” but “fill two needs with one deed,” captures it perfectly.

The 5 Realms of Service

IMG_2788Too many times I’ve heard my husband call out, “Honey, I can’t find the (insert object here)!” Even after telling him exactly where to look, I still end up having to go and show him myself. Usually it is right where I suggested it would be, just that it required lifting or moving something else slightly out of the way to see it.

I find that sometimes seeing opportunities for service is a similar process- it might be right there in front of me, but I haven’t adjusted my focus or changed my filter to see it that way. I’m going to suggest five realms where service opportunities can be discovered. Overall, these might seem fairly self-explanatory, but perhaps there’s one category here you hadn’t considered or you hadn’t thought about how well it fit into your family’s daily life already.

Over the course of time, I’ll expand on these categories and use them to help organize the ideas, tips and resources shared on Philanthroparent.com .  Hopefully this list gives you a fresh perspective on what opportunities are already there in front of you. Maybe you’ll discover something you didn’t even know you were searching for. Take a look. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to find it quicker than my husband can find the things he’s been looking for in his closet. (more…)

Lessons from School: How to Use a Photo to Discover Service

When you’re a Philanthroparent, you see potential for service around every corner, and sometimes it is hard to choose which social issue to focus on. Instead of choosing philanthropy activities for your family every time, try seeing the social issues we’re surrounded by on a daily basis through your child’s eyes…. or through their viewfinder!

DSC_0379This lesson (written for a service-learning organization that helps teachers integrate service into their curriculum) can also be utilized by parents, as well. Offer your child a chance to be a budding photo journalist. Hand over your camera, smartphone, or tablet. Let them document their surroundings. As you look back on what they’ve captured, there’s a good chance you’ll find a multitude of social issues in your immediate community, and this can drive a service idea. (more…)