The goal: to find opportunities each day to perform acts—big or tiny—of kindness, empathy, thoughtfulness, generosity, and compassion.
And here we are in 2017, as unbelievable as that sounds to me! This new year may seem especially dramatic, but there’s always something about saying goodbye to the previous year and starting a new one that fills us with a range of emotions from trepidation to excitement, anxiety to hope. A lot of that has to do with the amount of control we feel we have over our future, and I know there are many people—especially children—who feel they don’t have any control. That’s why I feel it’s so important to focus on the things that we can do, and to use that “power” in the most productive way possible. Through small individual acts, each of us in his or her own way can create ripples of positive change that flow through our families, our communities, and even our country.
So today I’m putting out a call to action to all parents and children: Please join me in a Moodsters Year of Kindness. The goal: to find opportunities each day to perform acts—big or tiny—of kindness, empathy, thoughtfulness, generosity, and compassion. We’ll teach and model for our kids how they can easily take these actions in their own lives. In addition to creating positive change in the world, exercising the kindness muscle also offers huge benefits to children, helping them develop empathy and emotional intelligence skills that will benefit them throughout their lives: socially, academically, and professionally.
I offer here six ideas to get you started; they begin (as kindness should!) in your own home, then radiate outward into the community. But I’m also eager to hear your suggestions and reports on ways that you and your children find to practice kindness in your world. To help you keep track, we’ve created a downloadable weekly chart that kids can help fill out, listing actions they’ve taken during the week, whether it was comforting a sibling who was sad or helping a teacher tidy the classroom. Please share these ideas with us on The Moodsters’ Facebook page, and each month we’ll highlight several of your great suggestions. Thank you in advance!
Kindness begins at home. Parents, every time you put out your arms to comfort a child, every time you draw a smiley face on a lunchbag or cut sandwiches into heart shapes, that’s a little act of kindness that says to your child, “I love you.” Find ways to show them every day.
Practice the ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you.’ We sometimes talk about “teaching manners” as if the tasks rank right up there with cleaning their rooms or taking out the garbage! But ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ truly are magic words: They open hearts and sprinkle delight, in the easiest way imaginable.
Care for a pet. If this is an option for your family, having a child help take care of an animal is one of the best ways for them to learn empathy and kindness. Even a small child can put out food and water, brush the pet’s fur, help clean a goldfish bowl. Older kids can walk the dog or empty a litter box. If you’re doing it right, the valuable lessons a child learns about caring for something outside of themselves far outweighs any inconvenience.
Reach out to a relative, friend, or neighbor. Sit down with your kids and make a list of ways you can let someone know “I’m thinking of you”: You can draw a picture, send a funny postcard, pick up the phone. These ideas are so simple and they cost nothing, yet they can make a huge difference in someone’s day.
Zoom in. Train your kids to look at the world through a different lens: the close-up, “helping” lens. Is someone struggling to load groceries into the car? Zoom in and offer assistance. Is someone trying to open a door with their hands full? Run over and open it for them. Is your neighbor’s newspaper sitting at the end of the driveway? Put it on their porch for them.
Share with others in your community. When I was in New York City recently, I saw a homeless woman sitting on the sidewalk. I knelt down and started talking to her when a little girl, about seven years old, approached the woman and shyly offered her a small bag filled with new toiletries. I noticed her mom and younger brother were standing nearby, and learned that they regularly fill these bags and distribute them to homeless people they see in the city. Their kindness brought tears to my eyes. If this project speaks to you, I encourage you to put it or something similar into action. And please share your experiences with me.
There are so many, many ways to express and share kindness with others. Some are dramatic; many others are small and quiet. Please join me in the Moodsters Year of Kindness as we create ripples of positive change for a truly happy new year.