Service is one of the topics we hear about most this time of year. Opportunities abound with the cold weather looming over many parts and many people in need of food and clothing to make it through. And now might be the perfect time to teach our kids about how to serve and then carry that teaching all throughout the year. If they understand how to serve when they are young, it will be normal for the rest of their life.
I don’t know a child that doesn’t watch every move their parents make and then try and emulate them. Granted, you might think your teenager cares nothing about you but I’m sure you’d be surprised at how much they perceive. One of the best things is to teach your kids about serving first.
Maybe you’ve seen something on the news or in your neighborhood of people serving. With natural disasters, there are always people helping to clean up or donate things.
Think about why you serve first. Maybe you do it to help a sickly neighbor/new family/people without as much as you have. Whatever the reason, as long as you know why service is important, it will be easier to teach it.
Then sit down with your children and explain why people serve. Even kids as young as 2-3 understand if you put it in simple terms. Maybe share a story of people that need things and tie it into service. Then tell them that we serve not to show everyone else how great we are, but out of genuine charity and love for the people we are serving.
Like I said before, the best example of service for your kids is you. Cook a meal for a neighbor who is sick or just had a new baby. Donate food items to the local pantry. Find opportunities to serve around you that fit your life.
Before we had C, I was looking for a way to serve regularly. I was interested in a women’s shelter a few miles away but realized that it would be on the same nights every week for a high number of hours. I didn’t have that much flexibility so I looked elsewhere. That’s why you need to find things that fit your life, whether they are big or small when it comes to time.
Make blankets, burp clothes, etc. for local hospitals. Create hygiene kits for refugee families. Donate the items you no longer want to places to thrift shops. They will usually keep some to sell there but in many cases, they ship them to areas in need.
Sometimes, all you can do is work to serve the people in your home. Show your kids that it’s still serving to do nice things for their sibling or the other parent. Service is service, no matter the size.
Get them involved
Now that your kids have seen you serve in different capacities, bring them into it. C is small but anytime anyone moves in or out of our neighborhood, Max takes him along to help out. He might only have the attention span to help for 15-20 minutes before he goes off and plays but there’s no better way to teach them than to show your example.
With the triplets and C, it makes it hard for me to get out and do every service project. But if I make a meal for a family, I get C excited to help out, by giving him the measuring cups and spoons to pour in. Talk to them about who you are doing it for, because it’s another way to reinforce the impact of service in their life.
Then help them recognize how they feel after helping someone.
Make it a family affair
There is nothing better than working on a project as a family. Memories and bonds are made and you can talk about it to one another.
Let them come up with the idea for a project and then follow their plans. You’re not only teaching them to make their own decisions but how to direct and manage projects. Obviously you’ll want to make sure they are a little older to direct the project but children of any age can voice their opinion about a project.
If you’re family has a certain skill set, you might want to incorporate that. Piano players, singers and other musical instruments can be used at a rest home or mall or hospital. Artists, sewers and builders can all use their talents to donate something to those in need.
There is an event called the Festival of Trees every year around Christmas time, and as we walked through it a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised by all of the different ways people donated to raise money for the local children’s hospital. There were trees decorated by theme, elaborate gingerbread houses, wreaths and even some playhouses donated to the cause. Come up with something that you can work on together, no matter the age of the members of your family and go for it!
Set goals for the year
It’s common to think about serving only during the holiday season. But as the New Year approaches, maybe decide on some service goals for the year. Decide to serve monthly if it’s something you can do in a day, or if you are taking on larger projects, give yourself enough time to accomplish them, doing one or two throughout the year.
A life of service changes our attitudes towards our fellow men and women, helps us have charity and makes us grow unselfish.
But it’s not enough for us to serve if we don’t teach our children how to do so. If they know how to look for opportunities to help those in need and then act on those, their life will be filled with more meaning than anything physical or monetary we can give them. Which is more than we can hope for as parents!
How have you taught your children how to serve?
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