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When families and communities face difficult times, including pandemics, natural disasters, or other traumatic experiences, the resulting upheaval is especially confusing and sometimes frightening for children. Children take comfort in predictability and routines, so abrupt change can feel unsettling.
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One way to restore your child’s sense of confidence and control during challenging times is by giving them opportunities and encouragement to be of service to others.
Additional benefits of helping and supporting others include:
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Providing a sense of purpose
- Increasing overall happiness and physical health
- Creating a sense of connection
Plus, your child will lift the spirits of the people in your community, something we could all benefit from during difficult times.
Try these five helpful (and fun!) activities to help your child contribute and connect.
1. Make Growth Mindset Stones
Decorate stones with encouraging growth mindset statements, then leave the stones in letterboxes or around the neighbourhood for people to find. Make sure to place the stones in areas that don’t disturb nature or natural habitats.Here are some ideas for your children (but feel free to brainstorm your own as well):
- Keep going!
- One day at a time.
- You’re strong.
- You matter!
- You are loved.
- We’re all in this together.
- You got this!
- This is tough but so are we.
Your children will have lots of fun decorating and offering encouragement and the stones will certainly make your neighbors smile.
2. Create Pavement Chalk Art
Similarly, children can write colourful messages of hope on neighbourhood pavements. The idea is to offer hope, kindness and connection for others to enjoy as they drive or walk through the neighbourhood.
Younger children can also draw uplifting pictures: hearts, rainbows, sunshine, smiley faces, stick figures holding hands, etc. Simply suggest to your children to write messages or draw images that could brighten someone’s day.
3. Build Window Displays
Window displays are another way to connect with and encourage neighbours, even from a distance. You can post kind words or well wishes for your neighbours. You can also hang images of hearts, rainbows or any other creative ideas to spread positivity.
During the recent pandemic, some neighbourhoods have even hosted “bear hunts” to provide a fun, socially distanced activity for children and their families. Participants place stuffed bears or other cuddly toys in their windows, then children walk or drive around the neighbourhood trying to spot them.
If you have a town message board or Facebook group, consider reaching out to organise something similar for the younger children in your community. Your children can select and place toys in your window and then take a walk with you to spot others!
During any type of challenging experience, this activity can serve as a nice way to cheer up children and their families while creating an opportunity to spend quality time together.
4. Start a Children’s Book Exchange
If your libraries and bookshops are closed, starting a book exchange is a lovely way to help your community. Create a “library” with an unused bookshelf, cabinet or even a storage box for toys. Post a sign encouraging others to take a book (and encouraging them to donate books of their own).
Spread the word on a town board, Facebook group or by placing letters in your neighbours’ letterboxes. Your children can decorate the “library” and help you find gently used books to loan to others.
5. Organize a Food Pantry
You can follow the same process with a mini pantry. Find a cabinet or storage bin—or, if you’re crafty, build a wooden box of your own. Fill the box with non-perishable food, personal care, and paper items. Leave a sign encouraging neighbors to take what they need. Neighbors are also welcomed to donate items by placing them in the box.
Many families are struggling financially during difficult times, and stores may experience shortages of many important items. Creating a pantry to help neighbors in need is a valuable contribution for the community.
Your children can help by decorating the box, finding items to donate, and/or spreading the word by writing letters to your neighbors.
With these activities, your children will provide the community with a sense of solidarity, encouragement, and hope. At the same time, they’ll feel a sense of purpose that fuels confidence and restores some degree of control and ownership of their lives.
Some of your neighbors will likely be inspired to spread even more kindness, making your neighborhood a happier place to live, even during difficult times.