To get the most out of this article, take a look at the definition of authenticity and why it’s important to encourage it in your children. Then, follow up with 5 tips to help you do just that. In this article, we are taking one of the reasons why authenticity is so important and expanding on it – because it has a huge impact, not just for your children, but also their local and global communities.
When you are being your most ‘real’ you, living out your values and using the gifts you were born with, you are now able to make a difference in the lives of others. There’s no better time to teach your children about their power to do that than right now, no matter what their age. Remember, if ever you say something to your child that, developmentally, they cannot grasp, it’s OK. It just goes over their head. No harm done.
What if…today was the perfect day to set something beautiful in motion? And all it took was revealing something awesome through a conversation or activity?
If you followed the steps in the second article, then you have introduced authenticity to your child in a way that best suits your family. Using that same language, you can let your child know that when they are being their special self, they can do some very important work while having a lot of fun and helping other people in the process.
Essentially, you encourage your child to take their passion and turn it into a form of service.
Here are some examples:
· Turn a love of animals into a volunteer gig at an animal shelter
· Convert a belief that all children should have new pyjamas at Christmas into a pyjama drive for local children (Here’s how a simple idea like this went crazy and even has corporate sponsors! Big ripples from one idea!)
· Take your child’s passion for sports and make your local YMCA the beneficiary of your child’s next birthday party – instead of gifts, guests are encouraged to bring cash that will be donated. Maybe throw the party at the YMCA, and in the goody bags include some written information on how the donations will help other kids have better sporting equipment.
· Do you have a child who loves jump-roping? They might feel excited about starting a skipping club at their school for kids who don’t know how to skip or are still practicing this skill. This can be true of anything from drawing to soccer ball dribbling. (Getting the school principal on board can go a long way here.)
· Take a virtue that your child has identified as being important to them (love, patience, helpfulness, respect, kindness) and encourage them to focus on it for an entire week. Help them remember this virtue in different scenarios when you are around. At the end of the week, what did they learn? How did they make other people feel when they practiced this virtue?
As you can see, you can take any of the above and modify it to reflect your own child. Depending on the developmental stage of your child, get their input on how they want to use their uniqueness. Even coming up with the ideas can be fun and stretches those creative muscles!
One thing I’d like to note: I try to talk about helping/giving/serving in ways that are uplifting, hopeful and non-judgmental. It can be hard not to say things like, “You can’t waste your dinner like that – don’t you know there are kids who don’t have enough food to eat?” I’m sure that’s slipped out of my mouth more times than I’d like to admit. But I remember the enormous guilt I would feel as a child about ‘having’ things that others didn’t. It’s a counterproductive feeling and doesn’t motivate anybody for the right reasons.
Here’s the thing I try to focus on now: We all have something to contribute, no matter where we live or what we possess. Use the language you have chosen for your family to remind your child that everybody has the power to help others. Sometimes our job is to give someone what they need (compassion, time, clothing, food…the list goes on) so that they, in turn, can let their special light shine on someone else. Being a part of the ripple effect is empowering, and eliminates byproducts of the negative emotions we want to steer clear of.
We are heading into the Christmas season which is always a time we exercise this principle. I encourage you to take this practice into 2015 and beyond, making service a regular part of your family’s life. And when you are doing it from an authentic place, it is so fun and rewarding, you won’t be conscious of the fact that you are also boosting your immune health, your natural anti-depressant neurotransmitters and your overall outlook on life.
Now THAT’S worth passing on to your kids!