July is Make a Difference to Children Month

Kim Ratz, a wonderful motivational speaker,  is also a huge advocate for Make a Difference to Children Month.  He has compiled this amazing list of ways that you can make a difference in the life of a child that we would like to share in the hope that you can make do something special in July to make a child you know feel great! Thank you Kim for taking the time to compile these ideas.

In the neighborhood…

  • “Sponsor” kids in your neighborhood to have their own 4th of July parade in a safe area. (This can be a fun gig for an aging, former rock star who still has a guitar! :)
  • Sponsor a “garage band” night for your neighborhood’s budding rock stars …
  • Sponsor trips of neighbor kids to library and other public spots – parents and other adults can co-opt turns to cover several trips …
  • Have an old-fashioned ice-cream social for neighbors and invite the neighborhood kids to do a talent show …
  • Volunteer to help with a kids program through your local YMCA, Community Education, Parks & Recreation, Boys & Girls Club, place of worship …

For more one-on-one options,

  • Just make pleasant eye contact with kids when you encounter them and smile. Be affirming. Be one of many people who do that so kids feel a sense of belonging / connection between people in a community and receive affirming messages … How many kids could you do this with in the course of one day in the community? …
  • If you have the opportunity, enjoy listening to what a child or young person has to say about something … anything … or in response to a direct question …

Through your business / employer…

  • Sponsor an event for children – either for the children of employees, or community-wide.
  • Sponsor a playground cleanup, improvement or construction either at the workplace or in the neighborhood.
  • Create a scholarship fund to award an annual scholarship(s) to students who show aptitude / interest in your industry / profession.
  • Adopt a local school, and with advance planning, look at ways to offer learning opportunities for students during the long summer vacation …

(Important note: In today’s world it’s important to remember the increased danger to children. Depending on your relationship with the child, make sure the parent or guardian of the child knows you and has given you permission to interact with the child. Especially because of the heightened concern we have that children are at risk, it is important to outweigh that risk with caring adults who seek only children’s’ safety and best interests.)

The next several pages list more than 100 additional ways that adults can get more involved with their children. It was started as a “free gift” idea for people visiting a web site that promotes the books I wrote for my daughter and son as gifts, and it’s grown since then … By re-framing the suggestions beyond just what dads and moms can do with kids, it is hoped that you will see many more ideas and activities which might have appeal to you, and provide an opportunity for you to make a difference to children – all year long…

I. How can you be more involved with your child at the start and/or end of the day?

  1. Have breakfast & talk/listen about each other’s day ahead
  2. Walk/drive them to school
  3. Walk together before leaving for work / school
  4. Read a story in bed
  5. Talk about each other’s day
  6. Tickle session
  7. Back rub session
  8. Prayer / meditation / reflection time
  9. Take an imaginary trip / adventure
  10. Practice body relaxation
  11. What else would you add?

II. How can you be more involved with their school years?

  1. Ask daily what they did in school – don’t accept “nothing.”
  2. Sit with them at homework time – ask what they’re learning.
  3. Meet the teacher(s) the first week of school. Let them know you want to be involved.
  4. Volunteer – reading, tutoring, assist on a field trip, etc.
  5. Read with your child daily – encourage the love of reading and learning.
  6. Have lunch with your child at school.
  7. Help at a school event, serve on a committee.
  8. Take a class for yourself – model being a good learner.
  9. Encourage other parents to be actively involved at school.
  10. Read the information the school sends you.
  11. What else would you add?

III. How can you be more familiar with your kid’s friends?

  1. Have your kids invite friends to play at your house so you can meet them and know how they interact.
  2. Before your kids go to a friend’s house the first time, meet their friend, and maybe even their friend’s parents, have their phone number and know where the house is.
  3. Go to their activities, meet the other children involved.
  4. Be involved at the kids’ school so you can meet their classmates and other friends at school.
  5. Attend your children’s’ birthday parties, and other events that involve friends.
  6. Talk with your children’s’ friends – get to know them.
  7. Be a good listener when your child has “friend trouble.” Help them learn how to forgive, be a good listener, and resolve conflicts.
  8. Organize an outing for your child and their friends and take them so you can be a part of it and interact with them.
  9. Ask questions of your child about what they do when they are with their friends. Show an active interest, but don’t interrogate, unless you think it’s necessary.
  10. If you have concerns about your child’s friend, try to get to know more about them – meet their parents, do something with the two families, etc.
  11. What else would you add?

IV. How can you be more involved in your child’s out-of-school activities?

  1. Check the schedule, commit to attend as many as you can.
  2. Volunteer to help at least once each year.
  3. At least drive your child to an event and/or back again.
  4. Ask them how things went when you cannot attend.
  5. Encourage them to select activities they’ll be involved in.
  6. Listen to them when they are frustrated or things are not going well.
  7. Monitor their activities in light of a “balanced load” – be sure it compliments and does not detract from their homework, rest and other obligations, including the ability to just play and be a kid.
  8. Help your child explore lots of different things when they are young, rather than limit their exposure, to increase the chance they find something they will really enjoy and pursue as an adult.
  9. When planning family vacations, ask your child what they would like to do.
  10. When your child encounters a problem, be a patient listener and help them learn how to work through those challenges rather than to quit.
  11. What else would you add?

V. How can you connect with your child through your work?

  1. Call them on occasion to be sure they got home from school, remind them of their chores or responsibilities, etc.
  2. Call from work – let them know you’re thinking about them.
  3. Bring your child to work with you so they can see first-hand what you do.
  4. After asking your child about their day, tell them about yours – the good and the bad.
  5. Encourage their thinking about careers by asking them how what they are learning gets them thinking about a job they think they would like.
  6. If your work lends itself to something they are studying, share thoughts, information or resources from your work (as appropriate) that could support them.
  7. Illustrate how abstract concepts being learned are applied in real life – in your workplace, as well as other situations.
  8. Be a guest speaker at their school and share about your career, a unique experience, etc.
  9. Encourage others in your workplace to get actively involved with their kids through school too.
  10. Encourage your employer to look at ways they can create a meaningful partnership with the local school district.
  11. Model your work ethic to them – talk about why you make certain choices and the consequences of those choices on employability, marketability, retention, advancement, etc.
  12. What else would you add?

VI. How can you be more involved with your child at your place of worship?

  1. Bring them to classes or worship.
  2. Volunteer to help with their programs, classes or activities.
  3. Ask them questions about what they hear, see or learn.
  4. Discuss current issues and opportunities and how they relate to one’s faith and choices.
  5. Be a role model of your own faith.
  6. Encourage them to ask questions of you, and others.
  7. Pray for guidance.
  8. Be concerned that they find their spirituality – not yours.
  9. Attend the special youth programs.
  10. Pray with them.
  11. What else would you add?

VII. How can you foster more communication and trust building with your child?

  1. Listen. We have two ears and one mouth – we should listen twice as much.
  2. When you must discipline, be fair, consistent and loving with your consequences.
  3. Make the distinction between making an innocent mistake (didn’t know better) and a calculated mistake (knew better) when considering consequences.
  4. Remember that children learn what they live – ask yourself what are they learning from you?
  5. When you ask them how they feel or what they think, do so without criticizing.
  6. When you want to give corrective feedback to your child (to get them to stop doing something or do it different), give them “three plusses, then a wish.” Give them three pieces of praise, compliment or recognition first, and then tell them what you want them to do.
  7. Walk your talk – model understanding, forgiveness, admitting to mistakes, and a willingness to try again.
  8. Find ways to build up your child, not to put them down.
  9. Follow through on stated consequences. Be fair – and firm.
  10. When you observe two people who are NOT communicating well, discreetly help your child observe and learn what can happen when good communication skills are not used.
  11. What else would you add?

VIII. How can you stay connected with your child even when you are having a conflict with them?

  1. Don’t stop communicating. Sometimes this means you need to keep listening, not necessarily that you keep doing all the talking.
  2. Let them know why the situation concerns you like it does. What are you afraid will happen? Is it possible you have a concern they are not even aware of?
  3. Anticipate the need for rules or boundaries and discuss these proactively – to minimize the chance that the child does something innocently or out of naiveté’ and then you react out of anger because they “disobeyed.”
  4. When you want to give corrective feedback to your child (to get them to stop doing something or do it different), give them “three plusses, then a wish.” Give them three pieces of praise, compliment or recognition first, and then tell them what you want them to do.
  5. Don’t discipline in anger. Take a timeout for yourself if you need to, so that when you communicate with your child you are reasonable and in control.
  6. Don’t use your loud voice or strong arms and hands to reinforce your point. This usually only achieves a sense of fear, not understanding and recognition for the need to change.
  7. Ask them what they think will resolve the situation. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but at least you have the chance to understand, and they may surprise you pleasantly :) with what they say.
  8. If your child is communicating out of anger, suggest they take a time out and learn how to get control of anger so you can communicate better.
  9. If it is not risky or otherwise dangerous, consider letting them make a predictable mistake and learning the predictable consequence of their action, rather than fighting about it and expecting the child to “take our word for it.” Sometimes we learn best by making a mistake or “walking through the fire.”
  10. Don’t minimize their feelings, or belittle how they feel. To your child, how they feel is their reality. Listen, emphasize and encourage them to figure out how to resolve the problem if at all possible. Help them learn to be a fixer, not a finger pointer.
  11. What else would you add?

IX. In the case of older children, how you can stay involved enough, yet not too much?

  1. Offer or invite – don’t insist. They have their own life now. Make them always feel welcome.
  2. Listen a lot.
  3. Offer advice only when requested.
  4. Or, let them know you have some thoughts but out of respect for them you will keep it to yourself, unless they are interested in hearing it.
  5. Give them permission to remind you of the first three items on this list.
  6. If you want to see them, consider doing something they’d like to do – not just what you want.
  7. Know their friends, and invite them too. (Because their friends might think you are more cool than your own kids make you out to be. :)
  8. Call them on the phone to say “hi” and that you are thinking about them.
  9. When they have kids, be an active grandparent!
  10. Learn to accept it when they decline your invitations. Remember they have their own life now.
  11. What else would you add?

X. Other tips:

  1. Allow kids the chance to decide on things that are within their ability to manage. Help them learn to take care of themselves, make good decisions, solve problems, and take calculated risks.
  2. Look for daily opportunities to build kids up. Kids can never hear too much positive feedback or reassurance, and it’s so necessary to counter the negative messages and experiences they will have later in life.
  3. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know,” when that’s the truth. Model how to deal with ambiguity, uncertainty or times of change and transition.
  4. Helping kids to learn to be responsible for them is best for them in the long run. As they grow, develop and mature, look for the opportunities to shift responsibilities from you to them as a person.
  5. Always remind the child of your loving connection with them. Sometimes when kids rebel, they do it not to get away, but to test that the connection that they depend on and very much need – is still there. When kids pull back, they need to feel the link connecting them to you gets tight, like a rope being stretched. Don’t let go of your end of the rope, no matter what!
  6. When your child makes a mistake or encounters failure, help them learn from it, and choose to try again. Practice makes better …
  7. Help kids learn how to believe in themselves, by modeling that you believe in yourself.
  8. Moms are great about telling their kids how they feel about them. Dads can do this too – when you have an affectionate thought, or are proud of them – tell them!
  9. Through your own actions with your child, remember that you are training a probable future parent.
  10. Tell your child you love them – every day, and find new ways to say it over time to keep it interesting for each of you.
  11. Take parenting classes when you first become a parent, and take advantage of the fact that we can grow each day as a parent just as our children are growing each day as a child …
  12. With ALL children you meet, when the opportunity presents itself – acknowledge them. Eye contact and a smile and nod, or a friendly “hi” – is important. Kids need to know we acknowledge them and see us do this so they can learn and practice how to meet others. It’s a subtle thing about self-esteem, and in the absence of acknowledgement, some children infer they don’t matter, or worse, that they don’t exist to the rest of the world.

And don’t forget the other two efforts you are asked to help with to make a difference to children –

  • Support an organization that focuses on children – by volunteering or through a financial donation.
  • Communicate with your elected leaders that children are a priority – education, health care, & safety.
  • What else would you add?

Here’s to a loving and fulfilling relationship with your children, and the chance to make a positive difference to other children!