THE BLOG

Finding Time to Care for Others: It Starts With Us

07/02/2014 02:37 pm ET | Updated Sep 01, 2014
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I wasn't shocked to hear parents are more concerned about their children getting good grades and their overall achievements than their ability to be kind and caring.

This was revealed in the research released by Making Caring Common Project that has parents, teachers and many others talking. Surveying 10,000 middle and high school students about what was more important to them, "achieving at a high level, happiness, or caring for others," almost 80 percent of the students ranked achievement or happiness over caring for others -- leaving only 20 percent of students who identified with caring for others as their top priority.

In understanding that we live in a fast-paced society as well as the fact that many families are struggling to simply make ends meet or are spread thin in one-parent households, it's readily apparent that it can be a challenge to reach out into the community to give back.

It's not impossible.

As the study and research has said, children will take cues from their parents, regardless of whether they are growing up in a single-parent or two-parent household. It starts with us; our generation has to start modeling to our children that no matter how busy we are, we are never too busy to lend a hand to someone that has less.

It is a fact that most parents want their children to become more than they were, and if you are struggling as a single parent, you want to be sure your children have all the benefits of an education that maybe you missed out on. However a formal education is only a portion of success.

Life has a way of bringing people into your path. As you and your children are volunteering, you never know who you or they may meet that could be part of their future. Volunteering can open doors in unexpected ways; it can be a source of inspiration and even a stepping stone to finding your purpose in life.

Where can you start? Give up a day at the beach or the mall.

Lead by example and give up part of one of your off days to help a local organization or someone right in your own neighborhood. Maybe it is only for a few hours, but it will be the most important few hours you spend with others and your family. Make this a habit -- not a one-time event.

Nursing homes: Contact your local nursing homes. Do you own a dog that could become a therapy dog? Many homes welcome locals to bring their dogs in to visit the residents. Ask if you can volunteer to read to some of the residents. Many nursing home residents have family members that don't visit often or are out of town.
Helping the Elderly and Infirm: Meals on Wheels is an excellent way to contribute to the care of those who are unable to care for themselves. A hot meal, a smile and a kind word can make a world of difference to someone who is homebound. Find your local program.
Feeding the Homeless: Find your local homeless shelter. Where I am located we have the St. Francis House. Our local high school students started volunteering here with their Interact Club of Kindness. This is a great opportunity for you to get your entire family involved. I am confident all communities have a place that would welcome your help.
Habitat for Humanity: Help eliminate poverty and homelessness in your community. Habitat's youth programs are open for 5-25 year olds, so everyone is welcome! Contact your local affliate and start making a difference today in someone's life.
Start a caring club: Work together with your child to start a Caring and Kindness club in your neighborhood. You could set up a neighborhood volunteer list to help each other out in many capacities. Start reaching out to elderly neighbors or neighbors that are sick that may need extra help such as walking their dog or mowing the lawn. If you have a neighbor that just had surgery, cook them a meal. Help a neighbor who is unable to drive by picking up groceries for them. Make it a priority in your home to reach out in your own neighborhood to see who needs you!

The most important part of this outreach is that parents have to participate. They need to show their kids they are just as dedicated to being caring adults as they expect their children to be kind kids. There are so many ways to help others -- you simply need to take the time to listen and hear their needs.

This summer is a perfect time to start building a caring community in your neighborhood for parents and kids alike. Get the whole family involved and spend some quality time together while doing good deeds. You can strengthen your relationship with your child while fostering a better neighborhood environment for them to grow up in.

We're the adults, we can't pass this self-centered morality on to our children and say, "Wow, we got it wrong! Good luck figuring it out -- we're all counting on you now." No, the cycle stops with us.

Takeaway tips:

• When you give to others, the bigger gift is to yourself
• Visit Random Acts of Kindness Foundation for more ideas to give back
• No more excuses, make time to give back to your community and make a commitment to yourself to find ways to show kindness to others -- your kids are watching