More than bystanders: community transformation

More than bystanders: community transformation

no bystanders in school communityFor most young people, school and its related activities are the scene of almost all personal involvement with others. You might say that school is a community– the broader environment in which kids find themselves. They can not only have a good experience there, but they can take the initiative to make it a good experience for others.

3 ways students can facilitate positive change in their school community

  1. Approach and include students who are being excluded.
  2. Tell someone who’s bullying or using put-downs that it’s not cool; not something that’s okay here.
  3. Speak to a campus administrator if there’s word of a fight, or if someone has carried a weapon to school.  (Rick Phillips)

As more than bystanders — students can see specific results.

bystander helps studentA Sacramento-area high school administrator shares, “Two of our students engaged in a war of words on Twitter that led one to ponder suicide…. One of our… students intervened by supporting the victim, directing the attacker to stop, and getting help. The student is now getting support. This was a dangerous situation very possibly stopped because of some Safe School Ambassador [students] on our campus.” (Chris Smith in The Press-Democrat)

Care, speak up, right a wrong

Parents share some ideas here that worked for them when children came to them with community concerns.

  • Preschool – When the child sees classmates in distress, encourage hugs or words of comfort. Let them know that they can pass along to others whatever empathetic gestures you’ve been making toward them.
  • Early elementary –  As you listen to the child’s concerns about an injustice or putdown directed at a classmate, first mirror back what you see and hear. Identify your child’s underlying emotion: “You seem angry.”  And finally, move to brainstorming ideas for action: “If that happened to you, what would you want someone to do for you to comfort you?”
  • Older elementary – Talk about the difference between speaking up to get help for a friend in distress and tattling to get someone in trouble. Keep asking for help until someone responds. And always tell me so I can support you.

Tweetable: Safe ways for students to become more than bystanders when their classmates are in distress. Click to Tweet

5 fun activities teach kids to think of others

5 fun activities teach kids to think of others

In an old issue of Psychology Today, I ran across an article featuring the words of Dennis Rosen, M.D.

Sometimes children seem so self absorbed and so preoccupied with gadgets and toys, we wonder whether they are aware of, or care about, what goes on around them. We like to tell ourselves, “Something” must be wrong with this generation.

Except there isn’t. The problem lies with us, the adults, who could be challenging them to think about others, and leading them to action.

Prior to going to Haiti to volunteer at a hospital, Dr. Rosen spoke to his daughter’s second grade class about the conditions there, showing them pictures of what life is like for children just like them. Following his visit, the class collected over 7,000 vitamins for him to give out.

“The empathy and genuine interest of these seven year olds was so impressive, and yet, upon reflection, not really that surprising. To help others in need is a very basic human instinct (though one that is not always acted upon).”

5 fun activities teach kids to think of others.

Author Cat Skorupski’s ideas I’m going to use with the kids in my life this summer:

  • Surprise parents by making a favorite food for each of them and present it at the next meal.
  • Do a chore without being asked. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s one that will resonate big-time with parents. The more annoying the chore, the better.  Make a movie of each child doing it and show their parents.
  • Raise money for a cause dear to someone’s heart. Showing that you care about something he or she cares about—enough to invest your time and energy—is a huge compliment.
  • Take a song you already know and write new words to it, making it about someone special to you! It doesn’t have to be complicated—heck, it doesn’t even have to be on-key. It’s the thought that counts! Then record it onto a phone or computer and send it to them.
  • Create a scavenger hunt. Hide affirmation notes around the house for a sibling or other relative to find. The notes could be hidden in sequence with clues that lead the hunter to the next treasure or they could just be hidden randomly.

Tweetable: Show kids how you care about others, then guide them do this directly on their own with 5 new ideas. Click to Tweet

Sightings of God’s care deepen children’s security

Sightings of God’s care deepen children’s security

Phil Jackson, former NBA player and current general manager of the New York Knicks wrote: “To my father, there were certain mysteries you could only understand with the heart, and intellectualizing about them was a waste of time. He accepted God on faith and lived his life accordingly. This was an important [childhood] lesson for me.”

While there’s trouble and suffering in the universe, it is friendly…

…and we can see evidence of God’s presence countless times every day.

If you want to foster a a child’s sense of security, consider sharing this perspective: God’s intention is for all human beings to live in community with God and then with each another. Our human frailties, not God’s, increase the selfishness and suffering in the world. God is trustworthy.

Help children identify sightings of God’s care

1. The rainbow

On the very day I signed divorce papers, I saw a rainbow in the clearing skies above our condominium  (a rare occurrence in Southern California). With my kids in the back seat, I pointed it out. One of my sons said, “Dad, God is near us and we are going to be okay.”

2. God’s “hand” on my face

One mother told her children how her father would tuck her into bed at night and place his hand on her face, soothing her to sleep. She continued, “Now when I can’t get to sleep, I pray and ask God to lay his fatherly hand on my face, and I am able to sleep.”

3. A kind stranger

While shopping with her children,  Heather made it to the check-out a bit frazzled. Back at the car her kids piled in, every grocery bag loaded, she slammed the door shut–when she realized she left her wallet in the store. She got out and started unbuckling her children when she saw a man running over to her:

“The cashier let me run this out to you,” he explained.  During the ride home, she and her children talked about how the man left his own grocery cart and delayed his day to show kindness to people he didn’t even know.  And how they could see God in that man’s actions.

Have fun hunting for sightings of God’s activity with children, in–

  • People’s kindness to strangers
  • Coincidences
  • Mysteries
  • Unexplained events

Tweetable: Sharing God’s intention for the universe may foster a child’s sense of security. And what is that? Click to Tweet

 

Spiritual trust: Understand that you really can make a difference

Spiritual trust: Understand that you really can make a difference

If we work on the assumption that spirituality already exists inside every child, the impact we have on children even in the earliest stages of their development makes such a difference.

Many years ago I was told the story of a baby.

Crack baby crying 690096_22642269

This baby was born to a mother addicted to crack cocaine.The little boy was born with an intense craving for the drug, and quickly went into withdrawal. He was inconsolable, crying and arching his back in pain. His mother was not available to him, as she was going through her own withdrawal.

crack baby 1402625_19862838

A group of friends decided to take turns holding that little baby in two hour shifts around the clock. Even as he cried and felt pain, arms were always around him. Even when it looked to those holding him that their arms were having no soothing effect, they still held him. After what seemed like an eternity, all the drugs were out of his system and he was at peace… lying in the loving arms of his caregiver.

What difference do you imagine that made to the baby boy?

What did he learn about God even through unfair circumstances? How did his experiences shape him– even experiences he wouldn’t later be able to remember?

[Originally posted in January 2014.]