“Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.” ~Prince
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.
Simply 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!
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…)
Yes! Don’t you just love coming across a parenting philosophy that resonates?! This #philanthroparent courtesy of @humansofny.
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.
Twice now our volunteer activities have been thrown off course. Our World Oceans Day project was trumped by a fever. The next mishap came as we headed to our summer service commitment visiting with seniors. President Obama was in town, and as we approached our destination… BAM! Road closure gridlock. Impatience from the backseat ensued. I decided it was in everyone’s best interest to head to the park down the street until the traffic dissipated. By that point, the toddler tiredness wouldn’t amount to a cordial visit with our elderly companions.
From an early age, I hope to model the importance of accountability with our daughter. Yet, toddlerhood inevitably leads to some volatility, and this sometimes wreaks havoc on our commitments. Being prompt was something I prided myself on. Now I’m consistently 10 minutes late (Hey, at least I’m consistent). Before kids, If I said I would be somewhere, I rarely would cancel. Now, a later than expected nap or mini-meltdown can thwart our best-laid plans.
Generally when I can’t honor a commitment due to unforeseen toddler tribulations, there is resounding understanding from the hosts and organizers, and this was no exception from the Big Sunday staff when we cancelled our visit with seniors. Yet, something still didn’t sit right about missing this event. What we were providing was valuable and necessary. I still felt accountable.
The good news is that accountability can still exist even if the unexpectedness of life with kids takes over an occasional commitment. Philanthroparents can use rain checks to their advantage in their quest to make a positive impact on the world through their parenting. Usually a rain check means rescheduling your plans, but what if we used rain checks as an opportunity to do even more? Rain checks with a purpose!
Yes, you can absolutely reschedule the missed play date, dinner party, or trip to the zoo. Bravo for showing your kids accountability. But, what if you shifted the focus instead? Rather than rescheduling plans in the exact same manner, you and your child could think of ways to do something similar that is also of value to others or the community.
- A missed a sports practice becomes a donation to a child’s Make-A-Wish campaign helping them meet their athletic role-model.
- A pesky virus thwarts your dinner with friends and turns into serving a meal at your local shelter.
- Your toddler wakes up on the wrong side of the crib. The trip to the botanical gardens is out. Buy a kid’s guide on composting and start up a system at home, or volunteer at the closest community garden.
Just think of accountability as the “ability to make something count.” You can acknowledge and honor the missed commitment with a rain check that pays back … or pays it forward! Make your rain check count.
Share the concept with the world. How did you add value to your rain check?
#PayForwardRainCheck to @philanthroparnt
We’ve done our fair share of putting our feet up this summer. It’s time to walk the walk. I’ve been talking the talk on Philanthroparent about ways families can serve this summer, and now it’s time to put some things into action for ourselves. This will be our first attempt at creating PhilanthroTot summer service opportunities. I’m excited to share what we’ll be up to in the next few months!
When considering ways to get out and give this summer, my first criteria was something toddler friendly. My 20-month-old’s favorite summer pastime seems to be wandering. I can’t guarantee the quality of my effectiveness at any of these events. I’m going to try to be of the mind frame that simply being present is still a valid way to support a cause. (more…)
This past weekend marked the first hands-on service activity I’ve participated in since parenthood. For years I’ve wanted to take part in Big Sunday Weekend- a compilation of community service activities orchestrated over one weekend in May. Even though I’d have a toddler in tow, I was determined to make it happen. I couldn’t be certain how effective I would be if I brought my daughter, yet I was ready to start volunteer experiences alongside her. I scanned the event listings, and discovered a Book Drive for a local Los Angeles organization, BookEnds … This could work. Armed with plenty of reading material and my carrier, we set out to sort donated books that would reach needy schools, youth centers, literacy programs and educational organizations.