Kids tend to be underestimated nearly every day by almost everyone. We underestimate their ability to understand big problems, their ability to find solutions, and their ability to carry out a plan. In the media, adults often promote children that are one in billion, such as Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist who has been challenging world leaders about climate change since she was 15. Seeing such impact on a global scale is overwhelming and could make a child think, “Well, I can’t do that, so what is that point?”
Dr. Alzein, Dr. Riff, and all our providers here at Alzein Pediatrics urge you to instead take inspiration from global leaders. As the holidays unfold and new year resolutions begin, your family can make a real difference on a small scale, leading to big, immeasurable change in our communities.
- Volunteer– Whether it is walking dogs at the local Humane Society, helping to clear tables at a soup kitchen, or reading to an elderly neighbor, there is always a task a child can do to better someone’s daily life.
- Run a food drive for a local food pantry/micro-pantry – Your child doesn’t have to bring in hundreds of pounds of food to make a difference. Running a small food drive on your neighborhood block in the spring for a local micro pantry means that families, often forgotten about after the holidays, don’t have to go hungry.
- Pick up the trash – Families of young children and people of all ages rely on walks around the neighborhood to get fresh air and exercise, but seeing trash can take the joy out of your walk. Put gloves and a garbage bag in your pockets before setting out. Encourage your kids to pick up any trash and dispose of it properly. Wash hands thoroughly when you get home!
- Cutting the grass or removing snow for neighbors – Kids are far more observant than we give them credit for. They notice when elderly neighbors are having trouble getting around more often than adults do. When your children make these observations, ask what they want to do to help. They may be too young to cut their neighbor’s grass by themselves, but they can pull weeds or shovel a path to the mailbox. Not only does it help the neighbor, it also helps spruce up the neighborhood, making everyone feel better.
- Donate toys and books – Children often think that all homes are like theirs, and it can be difficult for them to understand that not everyone has a shelf full of books or a play area to keep them entertained. Talk to your children about donating toys and books that they’ve outgrown. Look for day care centers or preschools in economically challenged neighborhoods and contact them to arrange a drop off.
- Be a good friend – The most important – and the most simple – way children can make a difference, today and for the rest of their lives, is to be a good friend. Encourage your child to invite the quiet kid to sit next to them at lunch or to share a toy or snack with the disruptive class clown. We know that just one act of kindness can change the course of an entire life; make sure your child displays kind behavior now, and it will touch everyone they meet throughout life.
Now especially, it seems as if the world is overwhelming for all of us, but it is not hopeless. There are countless small actions parents and children can all take all year round, to help our communities feel safer, healthier, and kinder. In the oak lawn, Alzein Pediatrics encourages your family to give yourselves a holiday gift of good feelings by doing one small thing to make a really big difference.