By Linda Cohen
As parents, inviting our children to join us as we volunteer sets an example that service and volunteerism is a family value. We can teach our children without lecturing them simply by bringing them along on engaging volunteer opportunities.
Several years ago, our synagogue participated in an annual food drive where we collected food donations around the neighborhood. My children grudgingly agreed to join me but told me they weren’t going to ring anyone’s doorbell or ask for handouts.
When we stopped at the first house, however, everything changed. The homeowner put my kids at ease by asking questions about what we were doing and how the donated food would be used. My 7-year-old son answered enthusiastically. I was thrilled the homeowner had taken the time to engage my kids and get them excited about the impact the food drive would have on others.
From that point on, my kids ran from house to house, racing to see who could ring the next doorbell and explain our mission. When we finished, my 10-year-old daughter sheepishly commented, “It was surprisingly fun.” My son eagerly agreed.
Like most kids, mine were less than thrilled about the idea of participating in an activity they thought would be boring or embarrassing. As it turned out, we were all surprised that filling an empty wagon with donated cans and boxes of food would be so exhilarating.
Our children emulate what we do – for better or worse – so finding volunteer opportunities we can embark on together allows us to share with them what’s important to us, whether that’s the arts, animals, the environment, homelessness or some other issue that needs our support.
Introducing your children to volunteering can be surprisingly simple. One easy place to start is at the grocery store. Most of us shop every week, so why not have your children help you purchase food to donate to a food bank? Shop the “buy one, get one free specials” and let your kids choose the food you’ll donate. Many supermarkets have bins in the store where you can donate the food you purchase, but you might want to deliver it to a food bank personally so your kids can see where it goes.
The next step might be signing up to volunteer to stock shelves or engage in another food bank project. Both Oregon Food Bank (oregonfoodbank.org) and Beaverton’s Sunshine Pantry (sunshinepantry.org) welcome young volunteers, as do dozens of other food banks in the area.
Alternately, you might want to volunteer for Store to Door (storetodooroforegon.org), a nonprofit that delivers groceries directly to home-bound adults, or Loaves & Fishes Centers’ Meals on Wheels (mealsonwheelspeople.org), a program that delivers prepared meals. One of the first volunteer jobs my kids and I shared – back when they were still toddlers – was delivering Loaves & Fishes Valentine-A-Grams each February.
Your family also can donate books, gently-used clothing, toys and household items you no longer need. Take your children along to deliver your donations to the Children’s Book Bank (childrensbookbank.org) or Northwest Children’s Outreach (northwestchildrensoutreach.org). These organizations will get your donations into the hands of children and families who need them. (Both organizations would welcome your family as volunteers, too.)
If your family is traveling through the holidays, collect the toiletries you find in your hotel rooms to donate to Potluck in the Park (potluckinthepark.org), Outside In (outsidein.org), or other nonprofits that work with homeless adults or teens. Many of these organizations welcome families with older children to help serve meals to their clients, so be sure to ask when you drop off your donations.
Finding a match
With so many possibilities for volunteering, how do you know which to choose? Consider your children’s ages and interests, then look for opportunities that match.
Do your kids love pets? Cat Adoption Team in Sherwood (catadoptionteam.org) could be a good fit. Do they love to garden and/or spend time outdoors? Portland Fruit Tree Project (portlandfruit.org), which organizes volunteers to pick and distribute fruit that would otherwise go unpicked, could be a great choice.
For younger kids, simple, hands-on projects are best. If your children are older, they might be ready to get involved with organizations dealing with broader and deeper issues, such as homelessness and poverty, human rights or environmental issues.
Brenden Butler is program manager at Hands On Greater Portland, an organization that matches volunteers with suitable projects. He says many local nonprofits welcome children as volunteers when they’re accompanied by an adult. Visit www.handsonportland.org/Kids_Volunteer to find upcoming and ongoing volunteer opportunities for your family.
Linda Cohen is a professional speaker and consultant connecting organizations with doers and donors. She is the author of 1,000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire and Change Your Life(Seal Press, 2011). She resides in Beaverton and is the mother of two children, ages 14 and 11.
Lines for Life anti-bullying campaign promotes mental health awareness
By Emily Moser, Lines for Life
DID YOU KNOW? A new Oregon state law requires school districts to develop policies prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying, and cyber-bullying; requires school employees to report such acts; and allows a student or volunteer to report such acts voluntarily and anonymously to an identified school official.
The teenage girl gets bullied relentlessly: A classmate hits her with a balled-up piece of paper. Another student sticks out his leg and trips her. She’s shoved into her locker.
In this case, the incidents are fictitious, part of an anti-bullying video created by teen leaders with the nonprofit Lines for Life. But for an enormous number of young people, bullying is real and has profound consequences. As the video illustrates, it’s also an opportunity for all of us – parents and other caring adults, school staff and administrators, and young people – to step up and prevent it.
Research shows as many as half of our children are bullied at some point and at least 10 percent are bullied regularly. Bullying takes many forms – from hitting, teasing and name calling to threats, spreading rumors and purposely leaving someone out. It can happen face to face, but texting, social networking sites and other online venues have created an anonymous, round-the-clock avenue for the damaging behavior.
Academic struggles, substance use, anxiety, cutting, depression and suicide are among bullying’s serious byproducts. That’s why we cannot fall into the trap of thinking bullying is inevitable. Severe incidents make headlines, but the issue often is overlooked in terms of what youth experience daily.
Lines for Life’s new bullying prevention campaign promotes mental health awareness for young people and reinforces the important messages that, whether they’ve been bullied or witnessed it, it’s OK for youngsters to talk about what they’re feeling and experiencing and to seek support.
As a parent, what can you do to help at home, at school and in the community?
Take bullying seriously. Bullying is repeated, aggressive behavior intended to make a person feel insecure, unwelcome or threatened. All forms are harmful and serious.
Establish/enforce rules about respectful behavior in person and electronically. Define what bullying is using language your child understands, communicate family rules against it, and help your youngster understand how to settle disagreements, manage feelings and interact via text and the Internet appropriately. Monitor online activities and be consistent with consequences if rules are broken.
Listen and ask open-ended questions. If your child has been bullied, ask him or her to describe it, where and when it happened, and who may have witnessed it.
Be your child’s strongest advocate. Accept what your child says about being bullied. Make it clear that telling you is not tattling and that by sharing they’ve taken the first step toward resolving the situation. Ask your child for ideas about how to address it and share your thoughts, too.
Stay calm. A parent’s protective instincts rightly kick in when they learn their child has been bullied. As difficult as it is, take time to settle your emotions. It will help you devise the best response.
Ask about bullying policies and procedures at your child’s school or district before situations arise, and if none are in place, champion them. If bullying occurs at school, contact the appropriate person immediately and offer to be part of the solution. Report everything you know about the incident(s) and do your best to work within the system.
Think about ways to make your home a nurturing place. It used to be that home was a safe haven from bullies, but cyber-bullying has knocked down protective walls. Try to keep the lines of communication open. If you’re concerned your child is being bullied, your instinct might be to ask direct questions like, “Are you being picked on?” Instead, try statements based on your observations. Saying, “You haven’t been hanging out with the neighborhood kids like usual” opens the door for your child to respond and share.
Create a community safety net. Make bullying prevention a topic at PTA and neighborhood meetings. Talk about what bullying is, its negative effects and the importance of kids hearing a consistent anti-bullying message from multiple adults. This safety net also includes identifying people – you, an older sibling, relatives, and trusted neighbors and friends – your child can go to if he or she feels threatened.
Help kids be empowered bystanders. Let them know they can make a huge difference and will be supported. Encourage them, if they feel safe, to tell a bully to stop, help a bullied child leave the situation, tell others not to participate, and get help from an adult. Role play can help your child figure out the best way to handle different situations that might arise.
Bystanders are a key focus of Lines for Life’s campaign because of their powerful prevention role. The more we support them and proactively address bullying in all forms, the safer our kids and communities will be.
Emily Moser is parenting programs director for the nonprofit Lines for Life (LinesforLife.org). For more information and support, visit Lines for Life’s Parenting for Prevention website (parentingforprevention.org) and YouthLine (oregonyouthline.org), its peer-to-peer crisis line for young people.
Category: Education, Parenting, Past Articles // Posted on August 1, 2012 // Leave a Comment
By Betsy Salter, Oregon’s representative to Parenting Magazine’s 2012 Mom Congress
In May, I was honored to be selected by Parenting Magazine as Oregon’s delegate to the 2012 Mom Congress on Education and Learning. This is the third year Parenting Magazine has selected one “outstanding mom who has made a difference” from each state and the District of Columbia to attend the annual conference. The purpose is to celebrate moms who work to improve schools and advocate for positive educational change. At the two-day conference in Washington, DC, delegates met with national leaders in education and advocacy to discuss the best ways to effect positive change in education.
After contemplating what it means to be an “outstanding mom who has made a difference,” I’ve decided it comes down to “Parent Engagement” – and parent engagement takes many forms. More…
By Natasha Forrester, MLS, Multnomah County Library
There’s an old adage that goes something like this: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But what if work and play are the same thing? For young children, that’s exactly the case.
Provided by the Regional Water Providers Consortium
Many parents work hard to teach their children the value of using resources wisely. But living in rainy Oregon can make it tough for kids to connect the dots about saving water. From splashing through puddles in the winter to diving into lakes and swimming pools in the summer, Oregon kids are blessed with plentiful water. How do we help them learn what this precious resource means, and how (and why) to use it wisely?
By Emily Puro
Experienced home exchangers offer these tips for making the most of your exchange:
Do Your Research: Explore the listings on a few home exchange sites (for example: homeexchange.com, ihen.com and intervac-homeexchange.com) before you join. You can search by your preferred destination, by members who would like to travel to the Portland area and by numerous other criteria.
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By Emily Moser
Vitamins in the kitchen cupboard. Ibuprofen in the bathroom drawer. Maybe even a bottle of old prescription medication in the nightstand.
Welcome to Many-a-Home, U.S.A.
Annual sales of vitamins, diet supplements, over-the-counter drugs and prescription medication are measured in the billions of dollars. It’s difficult to go any length of time without seeing or hearing advertisements for them. It seems as if whatever ails us – or for that matter, however we might want to better ourselves, like getting an energy boost or building muscle – there’s a pill or concoction that’s touted to help.