I’d like caregiving to become a natural part of what my family does together. How can we involve our children in caregiving? How can we especially involve teenagers?
This question is so important that I’m going to respond in a series of three posts and podcasts:
Part 1: How can we involve our children (10 years and younger) in caregiving?
Part 2: How can we involve our teenagers in caregiving?
Part 3: More ideas on how families can be involved in caregiving together are below.
How can we involve our children and teenagers in caregiving? A wise person in the book of Proverbs says, “Train a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from the way.” So, I believe that if we want our children to grow up to be compassionate caregivers as adults we need to (1) model caregiving–talk about it and then let them see us actually caring for people. It is true, “Actions speak louder than words.” (2) We also we need to involve them in actual caregiving.
So following are some ideas from my family’s experiences:
For 4 years our church organized a spring break mission work experience. Instead of heading to the ocean beaches or to the Colorado slopes, some families and adults headed to Water Mission International in Charleston, South Carolina, or Echo in Ft Myers, Florida. One family was a part of all 4 of those trips, and it got so that their kids would ask as spring break time approached, “Where are we going to work this Spring Break?” They loved it. Why? I think it was because they worked alongside the adults and they knew that they were doing something important. One day at Water Missions, which builds water filtration systems for developing countries, Ian’s mom decided to take the children back to the hotel for an afternoon swim. But Ian said, “I can’t go back to the hotel and swim when there are children in the world who do not have clean water to drink?” More recently, Ian’s sister, Caroline went with a work team to Chiapas, Mexico to install 5 water filtration systems in 5 villages. One day, after she had returned home she said, “When we were in Chiapas we made people happy everyday and now it is hard to come back just to our regular life.” I believe children, as well as teenagers, want to make a difference, if we give them opportunities; such as, mission trip experiences.
As a part of our family’s Christmas Eve rituals we put together Church World Service kits for disaster or needy areas in the world. One year we put together 300 school kits. It was fun and even the young grandkids got involved. We set up an assembly line where each member filled the kit with pencils, crayons, paper, eraser, etc. We all felt good inside when we saw this huge mountain of 300 kits which would give children somewhere in the world the items they needed for school. One year we made the collecting of the items for the kits into a contest. We divided the family into 3 groups. Each group had a list of items which they needed to find and buy, and the first team back with a completed list won a prize.
For information on the various kids: School Kits, Baby Care Kits, Hygiene Kits and Emergency Clean-Up Kits go to Church World Service: Kits Program. On this website you will receive all the information you need to make these service kits. A kit project could be done anytime during the year–not just at Christmas–because they are always needed.
Another tradition each year is making and decorating Christmas cookies. Even my teenagers have fun decorating the cookies! When they are finished we all deliver them to the people at the Hospice home, to shut-ins, or children in hospitals, or firemen and police who are on duty Christmas Eve.
Caregiving can be fun. I believe that if we make caregiving a fun family time and also something that we do often, we will be establishing a habit in our children’s lives. Then, when they have families of their own there is a good chance they will also make caregiving a part of their family life.