By Heather Barrow
I am blessed with a healthy family, loyal friends, a beautiful home and career that I love. Hill (5) and Claire (7) attend a wonderful school, take piano lessons and spend their weekends doing activities at museums, plays, movies and parks. They do not know what it feels like to be hungry, thirsty or without shelter, clothing, healthcare or education. Does any of this sound familiar? Chances are if you are reading this on your phone/tablet/computer and have children, you have a similar family life. On paper my kids may sound spoiled, entitled and over-scheduled but in person they are empathetic, charitable and kind. I am not always proud of my parenting decisions but this is one thing our family is getting right. My husband and I are raising charitable kids in an entitled world and you can too. Here’s how:
1. Lead by example. I spend 40 hours a week (unpaid) running High Risk Hope making sure we are positively impacting the lives of high risk moms and their babies. My kids are proud of what I do and talk about it often. Claire has declared she will take over HRH when I die, Hill immediately chimes in that he will take over because he is the first HRH Baby (ticks her off every time). Then the fight starts, followed by my bad parenting skill when I yell, STOP FIGHTING!
I recognize that the majority of society does not have the ability to dedicate unlimited hours every week to a charity, but how much of your time do you spend helping others in need? Do you remember your parents consistently helping others when you were a child? If the answers to those questions were zero and no, are you repeating that cycle with your children? How many hours does your child spend at extracurricular activities such as soccer, dance, swimming, etc.? We are all busy but it doesn’t take a lot of time to make a difference in the life of another. And it is free!
2. Help them identify their passion to find a cause. My passion is prolonging high risk pregnancies to ensure premature infants are born healthier. While I would love for Claire and Hill to share my passion, they don’t. They are passionate about animals, Claire anything that roams land, and Hill the sea. We talk about the animals they love and ways to help them, especially the ones who might one day be extinct. With all of the recent drama at Sea World (which we have visited) and their alleged mistreatment of large mammals, we discuss the pros and cons of having those beautiful creatures in captivity. Should we support Sea World by visiting? Maybe visit and volunteer at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium instead. We help them come to the decision and support it. What is your child’s passion? Once you figure it out you will have a captive audience. There are so many worthy causes out there that you will easily find one your child is excited about.
3. Pick a fundraising or volunteer activity that interests your child. This is the fun part, talk to your child about what their skills are and how they would like to help. Do you have a budding entrepreneur? Then help them host a lemonade stand. Want to avoid present overload at their birthday? Ask for donations in lieu of gifts. Have a future track star? Participate in a charitable athletic event. My favorite is the HRH Tot Trot held in Tampa every November! If you reach out to the charity you plan to support, they can give you ideas for your child based on age. At HRH, we make it easy for kids to get involved through mini-fundraisers. You don’t have to raise much; every dollar will help the charity you support.
4. Explain how their actions will help. “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”― Albert Einstein. As the adorable videos of kids pouring ice water on their head wind down, I wonder how many kids (and adults) actually learned something about ALS. If you do not fully explain to your child how their hard-earned money or time has helped the cause, you have missed a valuable opportunity and life lesson. Our family participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and donated to ALS, but I knew little about the disease. I took 15 minutes to learn about the cause our family was supporting and explained it to my children as this, “ALS is a bad disease that many people have, but there is currently no medicine to cure it. The Ice Bucket Challenge has raised 100 Million dollars to research new medicine to cure this disease and made people like us know a little more about it.” Done, lesson learned.
No one is perfect and I know my kids will make big mistakes growing up, just like I did. I also know that rather than lighting an endangered tortoise on fire or bullying a classmate to the brink of disaster, they will be the ones to help instead of hurt. By raising children who are charitable, kind and empathetic, we will all ensure the future of our community shines brighter than today.