"Who did you help today?" may seem a simple question, but the power lies in asking. Because when we ask that question, we remind not only ourselves, but also others, to help someone else. And if 4.7 million people in New Zealand could answer this question positively, imagine the type of change we can all make!
This is the question Who Did You Help Today founder Stacey Shortall asks her children every night at the dinner table. When she happened to mention it during an awards speech, the question gained its own momentum, and the Who Did You Help Today charity was created. This has now grown to include three very different projects, all of which support creating positive change within our communities.
Our children are never too young to learn the value and joy that comes from helping others, and by asking children, "Who did you help today?" every day, we can encourage them to unleash the magic of helping.
TEACHING CHILDREN TO HELP OTHERS
The bottom line is that children want to help, so how do we as adults nurture and guide them to form a lifelong habit of helping others? Children are a wealth of information, so a great way to start is by asking them to write their own list of the things they believe might help make someone else's day better.
The ways our children help don't need to be big, but they do need to teach recognition of situations where someone might need a helping hand and what they can do to help. We need to encourage all efforts, and while the level of help will depend on the child's age, children need to understand that helping otherNew Zealanders each and every day iswhat matters and, while you may neverknow the impact your interaction will have, it is likely to help someone.
TIPS FOR PRESCHOOLERS
For preschoolers, helping can be as simple as giving them a household job, such as putting away their toys when they've finished playing or suggest they help their early childhood teacher pack up the paints. They might even want to give one of their many homemade artworks to a friend.
TIPS FOR OLDER CHILDREN
As children get older, helping others might be about helping an elderly neighbour with their rubbish bins, picking up rubbish around school, doing household jobs like setting the dinner table, or unpacking the dishwasher. All of these, while they may seem like small gestures, encourage our children to understand how helping others makes a difference.
TIPS FOR FAMILIES
Once they're ready, turn helping into a family effort. Talk to your children first and find out what might interest them, what issues they care about, or what causes they would like to support. Are they concerned about the environment? Do they care about abandoned or rescued animals? How about elderly people who don't have any family to visit them? Or maybe it's poverty, homelessness, or sickness?
Depending on what your child is interested in and what you agree as a family, helping could be as simple as cleaning out wardrobes and bookcases and then going together to a charity shop to donate clothes, shoes, and books. You could look for a volunteer activity in your community. The internet or local library are good sources of information about organisations that are looking for volunteers. Depending on the age of your children, HelpTank (helptank.nz) might help you identify some wonderful volunteering opportunities. While many parents of young children have little time in their daily routines and the thought of adding more to that day is somewhat daunting, even small efforts, that make a difference to others, help our children learn the value of helping others.
SHOW REAL-LIFE HELPERS
Another good and easy way to help our children understand the impact of helping others is by showing them real-life examples. While our world is overrun with tough issues, there are good things that are happening and good people trying to help. You can help make your own children feel better about the world they live in by finding articles about students who are volunteering to help others. This will also get children thinking how they might be able to help make a difference.
When we encourage children to help, they learn to appreciate the value that comes from helping others. Asking our children a simple question such as "Who did you help today?" will remind them that they can make a positive difference not only to individuals,but to the communities we all live in.