Successful, happy, creative, hard working… all of us who love children dream of the wonderful people they will become. For me, raising kids who are above all kind is a high priority. As we head into the final weeks of 2021, I try to use this time to keep kindness front and center in our lives. World Kindness Day was November 13th, then comes Thanksgiving and of course December with all its activity. It’s easy for priorities to get lost in the shuffle.
Kindness is easy enough to overlook in a complex world where the list of things that are wrong is, frankly, overwhelming. And kindness can be dismissed as a passive platitude. But I’m not so quick to ignore the power of kindness, even if it seems cliche, inadequate or small. Our children need a foundation on which to build their belief about how to treat themselves, others and our world in general. I think kindness is a solid foundation.
Here are some simple ways to focus on kindness to help end this crazy year on a really positive note.
Read Books about Kindness
Read and learn about kindness! Reading is proven to build empathy and happily there are treasure troves of books for kids that share the importance of kindness. Seacoast Moms’ resident librarian shared some of her favorites in this list. My personal top pick is The Spiffiest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson. Here are some of my other favorite kindness stories to share with your loved ones.
Walk your talk with a kindness jar.
Write down ideas for random acts of kindness on slips or paper or craft sticks and start a family tradition of pulling one every day or week and doing it together. Ideas should be simple and doable: use sidewalk chalk to leave encouraging messages for neighbors, write a thank you note to your bus driver/librarian/mail deliverer, or compliment a classmate you aren’t good friends with. For more ideas, check out this guide created for World Kindness Day.
Practice a little self-kindness every day.
Sometimes kindness towards ourselves is harder than kindness towards others. But to truly start a revolution of kindness, we can’t leave ourselves out. If you are struggling to explain it to your littles, the picture book Listening with My Heart by Gabi Garcia explains the concept in a kid-friendly way. Don’t forget to also model the idea for your kids by practicing some self-compassion.
Short podcasts are a simple way to sneak in a story and some talk about kindness while you drive to school or to after-school activities or as a wind down activity before bedtime. For World Kindness Day, try “A Cup of Poi,” from Circle Round. WBUR also provides a printable coloring sheet to go with the story and an idea for kindness bingo, which you could substitute for the jar idea above.
Speaking of listening… truly listening to someone, especially if it’s a person who often feels ignored or silenced can be a true act of kindness. Is there someone in your family or community you can sit with or call and give them the gift of listening? And involve the kids; even your small ones can learn the importance of listening to others.
Point out kindness on television and in movies.
For all our complaints and worries about screen time, plenty of television shows for kids routinely show characters being kind or learning the importance of kindness. Make it a point to comment when you notice a show character being kind. It doesn’t need to be preachy or a long discussion. A simple, “that was kind” when you are watching together demonstrates that kindness is something your family notices and values.
Celebrate real kindness heroes in 2021 and beyond.
Talk with your family members about famous people you admire for being kind. When I think about kind people, Mr. Rogers immediately comes to my mind. Faith traditions from around the world promote the legacy of compassionate role models, like Francis of Assisi and the Dalai Lama. You can also expand your exploration of kindness to include people who are kind to animals, like Jane Gooddall, or those who are kind to the Earth, like Planetwalker John Francis or Wangari Maathai. Perhaps most importantly, point out people in your world who exemplify kindness. You and your kids may find yourselves inspired when you take the time to notice that kindness really is all around us.
This November, we can remind ourselves and our children that the world can actually be a kind place. And then we can do our part to make it even kinder. One day at a time.
Note: whenever possible in this post, I’ve included links from people to beautiful picture books about them to make it easy to share their stories with your kids and learn about them yourself.