Small Acts Big Change is proud to present Make a Difference From Home guest author, Natalie Silverstein, MPH. Enjoy!
Title: Make This a School Year of Purpose and Kindness
Author: Natalie Silverstein, MPH
The new school year presents lots of opportunities for your children to practice empathy, kindness and compassion. Every day, in small ways, kids can flex their empathy muscles and feel the pride of helping others and spreading joy. Similarly, the start of a new season offers abundant opportunities for your family to engage in meaningful service at home to support people and charities in your community. It’s important to be intentional – to find the time and make the effort to schedule acts of kindness and volunteering into your busy weekly and monthly schedules. Luckily, the school, religious, and secular calendars provide many moments, holidays and events that allow you to engage in this important work with your kids.
Below are a few simple ways for your family to incorporate kindness and service into your busy back-to-school schedules:
- Make the effort to provide essential school supplies and backpacks to children in your community who are in need. There are many local and national charities that collect donations of school supplies and backpacks to ensure that every child starts the school year with the tools they need to be successful. A full backpack is so much more than just pencils and notebooks: it allows a child to walk into school on the first day with confidence and dignity. Volunteers of America hosts a program called “Operation Backpack” in many communities across the United States, or you can do an online search for a “backpack donation drive” in your area. Your local Staples or other office supply store may offer a collection box, as well.
- At the beginning of September, we will acknowledge the 20th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. We will honor the many innocent lives lost, and the first responders and service members who did so much to help us on that day and in the months and years that followed.September 11th has been designated as a National Day of Service, and there are so many small but meaningful ways that your family can remember, honor and show gratitude to the families who lost so much, and to the first responders and front-line workers who continue to keep us safe. Explore local opportunities in your community, and check out the 9/11 Day of Service website or the Youth Service America’s list of 9/11 Day of Service activities. The Points of Light Foundation also created a 9/11 Day-at-home Toolkit that you can download which provides lots of great “virtual” service ideas.
- Give your children the tools they need to spread love and kindness to everyone they encounter. Send kids to school with a stack of colorful “post-it” notes and a crayon or marker in their backpack. Encourage them to leave kind and encouraging notes on desks or lockers for classmates, or to invite a new student to join them for lunch, or to thank teachers, crossing guards, the school nurse or cafeteria workers. These thoughtfulness notes are a win-win: the recipients will be touched and grateful, and your kids will feel the real sense of joy that comes with being kind and making another person smile.
- There are several national and secular holidays in the Fall months that lend themselves to acts of kindness and service. If your family celebrates the Jewish holidays, including Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Sukkot (a celebration of thanksgiving for food and shelter), you can work with your children to bake and share sweet treats with neighbors, or invite new friends over for a meal. In early October, many schools acknowledge Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day with a day off from classes. This is a great opportunity to learn more about indigenous cultures, and to find a way to give back in your community (perhaps by doing a park clean-up or working at a food pantry) on a day when children don’t have school. Some schools also close for Veteran’s Day in early November, which is a perfect opportunity to show love and gratitude to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country. At home, your kids can create colorful cards, put together care packages, create no-sew fleece lap blankets or schedule a phone call with elderly, isolated veterans through organizations like Operation Homefront, Operation Gratitude and Hope for Warriors.
Every day, and in every interaction, you and your children have the opportunity to practice empathy, to express compassion and gratitude, and to make others feel seen and supported. Start this new school year with an open heart and a positive intention to make service and kindness a regular part of your family’s busy schedule.
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This blog is hosted by Small Acts Big Change, a nonprofit organization helping people volunteer to change the world through kindness and service.
About the author
Natalie Silverstein, MPH, is the author of Simple Acts: The Busy Family’s Guide to Giving Back (2019), which was selected by the HuffPost as one of 10 Books For Parents Who Want to Raise Kind Kids, and the upcoming Simple Acts: The Busy Teen’s Guide to Making a Difference (2022). She is also the New York area coordinator of Doing Good Together, a national non-profit with the mission of helping parents raise kids who care and contribute. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, podcast guest and consultant on the topics of family and youth service. She lives in New York City with her family.