May 1967 saw the start of a neighborhood that now stretches around the world and beyond time. This month marks Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood 50th anniversary. Right when we need him most, once again, we have his reminder to “Look for the helpers,” in the midst of terrible tragedy.
News coverage has shocked us and made our hearts tremble. Even in the midst of this though, the news also includes stories of the helpers. A woman rushed into the area when she heard children screaming and led them to safety, a taxi driver drove people all night to where they needed to go. More people and businesses have responded with whatever they can do. In Mister Rogers words, there are “always people who are helping.”
Whether children know what has happened or not, they are still affected because we are. If they have questions, we can explain something very sad happened and we are sad when we think about the people even though they are far away. In our own neighborhoods, is there someone who we can help? There are many ways children can help, too.
Some simple ways to help are to make a batch of cookies for someone who cannot get out much and deliver the cookies to them. At this time of year, there could be flowers in the garden. Pick some flowers together, put them in a jar, and take them to a neighbor. Kids themselves can help us sort out clothes that are too small for them or toys they don’t use anymore. These can be taken to a thrift store or other charity. Do you have any elderly neighbors that could use a hand weeding a garden? New families in the neighborhood might appreciate an invitation to go to the playground for some fun and sun.
No matter where we live, we might be able to show our kids what it means to be a helper. We have no idea what the future will bring for our children, but we can help them by giving them words and actions to live by. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood 50th Anniversary reminds us the world is our neighborhood and in it, there are helpers.
Young children have kind hearts and there are ways that we can encourage kids to be kind. Kindness is a great way to finish one year and start the next.
Some acts of kindness depend on the age of children and what’s in the community. Here is a poster with some ideas. Acts of kindness don’t have to be random, they can be planned. Is there one or more you and your child can do?
One way kids learn kindness is, of course, from the example of parents and other adults. Kids copy our behaviors and when we show kindness to others, so do kids. When we notice a child doing something kind, we can acknowledge their effort. A simple, “I saw you be kind to that person. Did you know you were doing something kind?” invites kids to tell us about what they were doing and gives them a chance to feel good about themselves.
Children will also respond to the messages in stories and books. Check out your local library or bookstore. Often, animals are the main characters from as small as an ant to as big as a lion, as peaceful as a little bird, or as ferocious as a lion. You can also make up a story with your child as the main character and tell about how s/he was kind one day.
With young children, we sometimes need to show them how to be kind. We can take a child’s hand and gently pat a cat or dog. We can notice a child all alone on the playground and use words to invite that child to come play too.
At Christmas, the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes. Young children have kind hearts and when kids engage in a random or planned act of kindness, we are helping their kind hearts grow too. Is this something you think is important for your child?
A rare Olympic medal for kindness was awarded in Rio. What are your thoughts on helping children show kindness? What do you and your child do for kindness?
During the women’s 5000m heat, two runners collided and fell to the track. They helped each other up and then continued encouraging and supporting so they could finish the race. Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino came in last on the track, but first in many hearts. Being kind to a competitor was more important than a chance at medals. In the long history of the Olympics, this medal has only been awarded 17 times, but the International Olympic Committee stated, “The D’Agostino and Hamblin story is one of humanity and sacrifice which has already captured the hearts of people across the globe.”
Helping children learn and show kindness has been a topic I’ve blogged about a few times. Here is an excerpt from an earlier post:
There are different approaches that we can use to help children be kind. As with many behaviors, children respond to the example of adults around them. When they see us being kind, they are more likely to be kind themselves. We need to acknowledge when we see them making an effort to be kind. Rather than rewarding their behavior, we can smile and let them we noticed by saying something as simple as “I see you doing something kind. Did you know that was kind?” That also sends the message that we think being kind is important.
Children need to hear the words that we use that indicate kindness, such as thanking others or asking “Can I help you?” Showing is another strategy. For instance, instead of grabbing the cat, we can hold a child’s hand and show how to gently pat. Kids seem to absorb ideas in stories so reading books about being kind is also effective. “How Kind” by Mary Murphy is a simple book for younger toddlers. “I See Kindness Everywhere” by Shelley Frost is the story of a child who recognizes the kind actions of others. There are many other books and stories that we can share.
And now, there is an Olympic-sized real-life story for helping children show kindness. Faster, higher, stronger, and kinder. What are your suggestions and ideas for this?