Sneak peek: Acts of kindness for children can help them cope with this difficult time by providing a way to help others.
We are all adjusting to our “new normal” routine of life under this situation of pandemic and social distancing. Each day, it seems more restrictions are being placed on each of us, including our kids. As a parent, it presents challenges beyond which many of us have ever experienced. Although we know that our kids’ social-emotional development will ultimately grow from this experience, it’s sometimes hard to focus on that at the moment.
Amidst all these restrictions, however, we have seen an opening and widening of our hearts. Online and in real life, we have all seen more acts of kindness and care for our neighbors during this time that most of us have seen in recent history. The story of this pandemic so far is a lesson in our interconnectedness and social responsibility to each other.
Although we want to shield our children from much of the more serious news about the pandemic, they are aware of this abrupt change in their routines and activities. It can often be hard for kids to cope with these changes and limitations. Through my research on stress and coping that I did in grad school, one big point that was reiterated over and over in studies was that how well individuals cope with stress has more to do with their emotional skills than the stressful event itself. In other words, it is within our power (at least to some degree) to manage our reactions to stressful events. One key way that the research literature points to on how to do this is through making meaning of the stressful event.
Related reading: The Secret to Raising Happy Kids: Don’t Focus on Happiness
How can we help our kids find meaning in their daily struggles and sacrifices during this time? In this particular case, the answer is built into our situation. The bigger meaning behind these sacrifices and restrictions is the care for others in our community.
For us and for our kids, the most powerful and meaningful act of kindness in our current situation is social distancing.
I’ve written about building kindness and empathy in kids for years on this blog, but this is the ultimate real-life example.
By staying home and away from others, we are exhibiting the best example of kindness and selfless care for others.
This idea is hard to convey to kids, especially very young children. Kids often learn best through hands-on action. In that spirit, I’ve compiled a collection of hands-on acts of kindness for children that they can still do while staying at home.
Acts of Kindness for Children
Messages for Elderly
Writing simple notes or cards for elderly members of your neighborhood, family or assisted living center. Kids love doing crafts and artwork. Elderly folks love seeing kids’ work. It’s a win-win for all involved. Some people (particularly assisted living centers or nursing homes) are preferring emailed messages rather than paper but you can ask. One assisted living center in our town specifically asked for emailed artwork from kids.
Many communities around the world are encouraging kids to post their artwork and words of kindness on their windows for neighbors to see when they go for walks. They can be simple drawings on paper, artwork with washable window markers or window clings. Some neighborhoods are even doing theme-days with each week being a different artwork theme like hearts, flowers, animals, etc.
Call or Video Chat with Relatives
Now that we are all social distancing, keeping in touch with loved ones via online means is even more important. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins will all love video chatting with your kids who are also stuck at home. Get creative! You can encourage grandparents to read books or play games with kids during video chat. Cousins can play board games together or show each other their favorite toys.
We’ve always enjoyed kindness rocks, but now they take on a whole new level of meaning while we are all keeping our distance physically from each other. Kids can paint their own rocks or buy a simple kit like this one. Then leave the rocks in your local park, neighborhood walking trail or a neighbor’s yard. A simple, safe way to spread some cheer!
Messages for Delivery Workers
The hardworking folks who deliver the many packages that are coming to us nowadays need encouragement too! Kids can write notes to leave on paper and tape to the front window or door. They could also use washable window markers or window clings to leave kind messages for delivery people.
Support Healthcare Workers
Do you have family members or neighbors that work in the healthcare system? Now is the time to spoil them. Kids can make cards (paper or emailed), or send video messages and voice messages of support. Parents, you could buy or ask for donations of gift cards to coffee shops or restaurants (that deliver) and leave them on the doorstep of your healthcare worker friends.
Let’s face it, parents: there is no playbook for a time like this. Parenting during a pandemic is hard. Give yourself a break and be patient with yourself. Despite the challenges that we face, it’s also can be a time a great growth for our children. The mental and emotional strength that our grandparents hold is in large part due to their experience with hardship and sacrifice like wars and the Great Depression. Our kids will emerge from this experience stronger and better able to face the future. Hopefully, these simple acts of kindness can help them cope with this trying time and remember that helping others is really the path to true happiness.
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