Our world (as we have always known it) has changed in so many ways, all in just one lifetime. With today’s global move towards a more inclusive lifestyle, now seems to be the best time to start making changes in your family’s outlook. If you’re reading this, you understand that the best thing you can do is to form your family into a socially conscious unit, instead of building walls and solidifying barriers. The term “socially conscious” might seem daunting at first, but did you know that you can actually turn your family into a kind, loving, and considerate group of people, through so many simple ways?
First things first: You and your life partner must, as much as possible, present a united front when it comes to your principles and goals. Naturally, every parent wishes to raise genuinely good children, and so you both have to assess your stand on things. Everything in life comes with a crossroad, so take it in stride, but decide on the lanes you wish to take as a family.
If you often find yourself tripping on random toy bits on the floor, then it’s time to have a talk with your child about letting go. You can teach the value of spreading joy by asking him to pick out toys he would wish to share with others and help him sort them into a donation bin or pile. Ask whom he would like to give them away to and bring him along during the donation.
It’s natural to want to shield your child from hard truths, but how long can you keep it up? When you ride the car with your kid and they start to ask why some people (including children their own age) are begging and knocking on your window, take this as a teaching moment and discuss the concept of privilege. This will raise further questions, of course, and that’s a good thing. Ask her what she’s thinking when she sees children out on the streets, and what she thinks she can do to help. Encourage her to be grateful for what she has, and consider what she can do for those that were not dealt with the same cards.
Tell your child to speak up for himself or for others that may need help as well. We teach our kids to scream when someone tries to grab them, or run to the nearest authority figure for help if he gets lost, so why not extend that same courtesy when he sees someone in trouble? You can show them how they can be “super” in their own way. You can also help drive this point home by addressing a problem, right in the moment. For example, a rather tactless aunt makes a mean remark in front of your child. What do you do? It could help to actually correct the aunt so your child can witness it, or explain the problem to your child right away so you can discuss the problem amongst yourselves.
There came a time when as an adult, I hated to watch the news and stayed away from negativity. But looking back at my childhood, I recognize that my parents did not censor the news when it came on the TV, nor did they take away pages from the daily newspapers. Instead, they took my cues and would explain certain concepts I found to be too foreign. The world is scary and very complicated, but remember, you are preparing them to live their own life, and showing them harsh realities can also enable them to decide how they want to deal with things. By watching the news with them, you are also allowing them to see the consequences of not following the law, and what it takes to be a contributing member of society.
In as much as I fear for my child’s safety and tend to act like a protective mother bear, I also recognize that it’s important to not raise my child as a hermit. That being said, sociability is a great thing to teach young children. There are times when I open the car window when we drive into our village, and I would encourage my daughter to say “hi” to random people walking along the street. I do this to show her how she can be a force of positivity for others, and point out how she made that person smile just by greeting them. You can also encourage your child to say thank you to “the people in your neighborhood”, so she can be aware of the individuals that keep her tiny world revolving.
Travelling is good for anyone, at any age, because it allows you to truly see how huge the world is. It puts so many things into perspective, and for young children, it is a good way to introduce them to different ideas such as traditions, race, color, culture, and food. Of course, you can’t expect them to grasp it all right away, but see it as an opportunity to be their tour guide through their lives. This way, you can help shape them into well-rounded (and well-traveled) individuals. Even local trips will do the trick!
Get them into recycling and conservation through small but helpful ways. Ever notice how kids like to play with the tap on the sink? That’s all good and fun, except it has to stop some time with a lesson on water conservation. Let them turn off the light switch when they wake up, so you can explain the concept of energy conservation. Encourage them to pick up their trash, use both sides of their drawing paper, and put those metal straws you got from Christmas to good use!
We can all be a force for good, and we can all help out in our own little ways. It’s always best to introduce children to these concepts early on, so we can equip them with the proper tools they need to grow up as great human beings, as early as possible.