In light of Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 17, we wanted to ask our children’s writer Brandy Browne about how families can practice kindness together – here is her response along with a few book recommendations.
Teaching your children to be kind to others is definitely the moral thing to do, but raising kind children also has major physical and mental benefits for the entire family as well. The Parent Co. (2016) has reported that our brain chemistry actually changes when we do something kind for others.
Practicing kindness in some way activates the vagus nerve, which in turn releases those feel good hormones into our brains. Practicing kindness can actually relieve aches and pains, lower feelings of stress and depression, and increase your life expectancy. This makes the benefits of instilling kindness in your family even more immense.
In my own struggles with anxiety and depression, I definitely found that finding ways to help others gave me purpose and reduced my own negative feelings. There are many ways to involve the entire family in kindness practices. Not only is your family helping others and improving their own health, but the time spent together in service for others will strengthen your own family bond as well.
Here are four ways to practice kindness as a family.
4 Ways to Practice Kindness as a Family
Engage in the lost art of letter writing.
In an age where most thank you notes are an email at best, pen a good old fashioned letter thanking someone else for an act of kindness they performed for you. Or, simply express your appreciation for someone in letter form. Those that receive your letters will be touched by your effort. Sometimes, it really is the little things that matter the most.
Find a project that your whole family can volunteer for.
Maybe you all volunteer at the local animal shelter and bond over walking the dogs. Perhaps you serve soup at a homeless shelter together. Making a difference in your community together will create a powerful bond within your family unit, as well as helping out your community.
Perform random acts of kindness as a family.
Leave notes of appreciation on the doors or windows of neighbors (use a sticky note). Bake cookies and deliver them to someone who needs a pick me up. Cook a meal for that family with the new baby. Get your children used to looking for opportunities to bless someone else. Have each person pick a different person to bless…in our family, that would mean five different people were blessed every time we engaged in this challenge. Think about how many people one family could bring love to over the course of a year.
Make it a challenge.
Challenge your family to find five people each day to do something kind for. Invite the new student to eat lunch with you. Hold the door for the person behind you. Do something kind for a sibling. The list goes on and on…
4 Books to Promote Kindness in Children
Younger children may need help with the abstract idea of how kindness can change the world. Try reading these books with them to help them create a schema for “kindness” and the ripple effect it can have.
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud
This book coined the phrases “bucket fillers” and “bucket dippers.” Children learn how kindness fills up one’s emotional bucket, but acts that are not kind dip into it. It gives children concrete imagery to reference the abstract concept of “kindness” to.
How Kind by Mary Murphy
This book illustrates the ripple effect that kindness can have. Hen gifts an egg to Pig, and it starts a chain of kindness through the whole barnyard!
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
Here, we read the tale of Brian, a timid boy that often feels left out with his peers. When a new student comes to school, Brian sees the opportunity to make a friend. This book is a great tool to use to discuss how it makes others feel when we leave them out.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
Molly moves to a new town where her “unique” characteristics make her a target for the class bully. Taught by her grandmother to love herself and appreciate all her unique qualities, Molly does not bow to pressure to be “different,” and eventually the bully learns that being yourself is cool too…
If you are a teacher or youth worker, check out The Lily-Jo Project’s online learning platform, which can provide you with resources and curriculum for teaching topics like kindness in the classroom.
The benefits of being intentional about spreading kindness and love as a family are immense. Because children learn best by example, it is important to be a powerful vessel of love and kindness yourself as the parent. Only then will our children receive our efforts and teachings as authentic and be ready to go forth into the world spreading kindness themselves.
Parent Co. (2016). 5 ways to make kindness a family activity. Retrieved from https://www.parent.com/blogs/conversations/improve-family-health-by-being-kind
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is an early childhood educator in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com), her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.