As a mom and a person who wants to see the world become a more caring place, I believe strongly in making sure our children understand the importance of caring for others and giving back to their communities. By instilling a caring spirit in our children from a young age, thoughts of helping people and making time to make a difference can become as automatic and routine as brushing teeth. It is up to us as parents to teach our children what it means to be caring in our modern, self-involved culture. So how do we ensure the next generation and generations after will be caring? Instead of telling them to be caring, we can show them how they can get involved.
When my children were very little, we instilled in them the idea of caring for others. It started on a hot summer day when they decided to have a lemonade stand. As we stood behind the card table with pitchers of fresh lemonade and plastic cups, I asked them what they planned to do with the money they were collecting from all of our neighbors.
They assumed the shoebox of quarters would automatically belong to them and they could spend it as they seemed fit, most likely on candy and a ballet costume to dress up their doll. I explained to them that they had everything they needed and asked them to think about other people, animals or causes where this money would be very helpful. They pondered that notion. My youngest pensively looked up and said, “Well, I think we should help the polar bears! Their ice floats are all melting.” And with that, they sold that lemonade with so much passion. We sent the money to the World Wildlife Fund and I watched my daughters mail the contribution with pride and self-respect. From that day on every lemonade stand or bake sale (and there have been many!) is for a donation to a cause that the kids research and explain (in detail) on a poster in front of the treats.
And that’s just one example. I’m proud to say that my children have fully embraced the idea that one act of care can inspire another, and regularly participate in caring acts from donating their candy to U.S. troops on Halloween and giving pennies to a variety of charities to boxing clothes that are too small for them for under-served families and volunteering at food banks and soup kitchens. Caring has now become an integral part of their life routine.
I hear many mothers complain about finding time for their children to be caring. They believe their children’s schedules are so time consuming and hectic that carving out that time is nearly impossible. In fact, according to a recent Johnson & Johnson U.S. survey, 55 percent of mothers and 53 percent of fathers in our country think the demands of schedule are a barrier to taking part in caring for others. We all have full lives. But showing children how to care can start simply.
It starts with compassion and respect at home, as well as teaching kids how to treat other children in school. Competition and success are often celebrated as the most important goals in school. But how about reframing the idea of success as seeking out a student who needs help? Maybe a boy or girl in your child’s class is shy and doesn’t know how to fit in to a sports game or is confused about a math problem. If your child is the one that puts his or her arm around that student and helps them, then they are practicing the universal notion of care.
Care can also be demonstrated by donating gifts at a birthday party or Bar Mitzvah. Have the guests bring something wrapped that will be donated to a child’s charity. And lastly, encourage children with words. When they demonstrate acts of caring, show your pride. When children feel good about what they’re doing, they’ll keep doing it!
You can also read more on how Ali teaches her kids to give back, and how Univision TV host Karla Martinez is passing on her grandmother’s legacy of caring to her daughters.
Author, actress, and host, Ali Wentworth is a multifaceted talent, bringing a wealth of experience to all her endeavors. As a writer, Wentworth has a column in Marie Claire magazine, wrote, co-created, co-executive produced, and starred in the Starz series "Head Case," and is the author of two books: The WASP Cookbook (detailing the culinary lack of taste of the puritanical history with hilarious commentary on WASP culture) and the recently released New York Times Best Seller, Ali in Wonderland, a memoir collection of funny stories and anecdotes from Ali's childhood, through her life in the limelight (coming to paperback this winter). Some of Ali's acting highlights include rolls in Nancy Myers' Its Complicated (starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin), Jerry Maguire (opposite Tom Cruise), Jerry's girlfriend Schmoopie in the classic Seinfeld episode The Soup Nazi, and a regular on the television series In Living Color. She can also be seen as a guest star on hit shows such as, Cougar Town, Blue Bloods, and The Michael J. Fox Show. Ali has appeared as a frequent guest, host, or commentator on such programs as The Marriage Ref, The View, and Larry King Live. She has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno over a hundred times, and held a three-year contract with The Oprah Winfrey Show, where she was an on-air correspondent. She can also be seen in her megahit Yahoo.com web series, Daily Shot with Ali Wentworth. She was most recently featured as herself on Beat Bobby Flay. A Washington, D.C. native, Ms. Wentworth is the daughter of a political journalist and former Reagan administration social secretary. She honed the craft of acting at New York University and with The Groundlings in Los Angeles. She resides in New York City with her husband George Stephanopoulos, and their two daughters.