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Kid-Friendly Ideas for Giving Back to the Community

Kid-Friendly Ideas for Giving Back to the Community

1. Find a “Giving Tree”

Throughout the holiday season, there might be “giving trees” or “wish trees” in your town building or the local mall, and they’ll be filled with tags that show children’s names and their holiday wish lists. Scout out these places or contact your local Salvation Army to learn where you can find one of these trees, and then head out with your child. Have him pick a name from the tree and shop together for the child’s wish list.

2. Go Through Toys and Clothes

Why not do your spring cleaning a bit early this year? It can be hard for children to part with toys and clothes that they’ve been using and wearing for a while…so be sure to set the activity up and discuss it beforehand. Talk with your child about less fortunate kids — some may not have toys to play with…and some probably don’t have warm clothes for the winter. Pull out some toys that your child hasn’t played with in a while and clothes that may not fit anymore. Together, choose a few items to donate to children who can use and benefit from them. Then, pack everything up, go find a clothing drop-off site, and let your child do the donating!

3. Make Cards

Does your child love to draw, decorate, or color pictures? Set aside some time to make holiday cards for children in the hospital, troops overseas, people in assisted living communities or nursing homes, and anyone else who could use an extra dose of happiness this time of the year. Then, have your child help you send them out or drop them off.

4. Donate Food

When you and your child think of the holidays, you likely think of your favorite foods that go along with them. Talk with your child about the importance of participating in a food drive for those less fortunate so that they can experience the delicious tastes of the season, too. Take a trip to the store to buy food to donate…and make it fun! If they have child-sized shopping carts, encourage your child to take the reins. Ask your child to pick a favorite holiday food to donate so that others can eat it, too, and work together to find it in the store — if it’s stuffing, grab some boxes of that; if it’s pumpkin pie, grab some cans of the filling. Once you make your purchases, have your child drop everything in the bin.

5. Deliver Goodies to Local Organizations

Whether you and your child love to bake holiday cookies or whip up endless amounts of snack mix, make extra. Decorate bags with your child, stuff them full of treats, and go around and pass them out to employees at the police and fire stations, hospital, and other local organizations that serve the community.

6. Work with Animal Shelters

Animals deserve the best, too. Contact a shelter nearby to see what they need — dog food, cat litter, bowls, etc. — and go to the pet store with your child to pick everything out. Or, call ahead to ask if you’ll be able to walk around and pass treats out to the animals. Either way, when you go to the shelter, do a lap around the kennels with your child and give the dogs and cats some love.

7. Create a Kindness Tree

Throughout the season (and even year round!), keep track of everything you and your child have done to help others by creating a kindness tree. Make a tree trunk out of cardboard or paper and cut out leaves from colored construction paper. Hang the tree trunk on the wall of the kitchen or the door to your child’s room and, on each leaf, jot down an act of kindness or activity your child does to help others. This is a great time to reflect on giving back and to talk about how it makes your child feel. Have your child hang each leaf up…and watch the tree grow.

Reference: Jeannie Krill of Bright Horizon

Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy

Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy

Teaching kids to eat well can be tricky. You don’t want to give them more facts than they can grasp or turn every meal into a lecture. But wait too long and they could pick up unhealthy habits in the meantime.

“Kids need to know that every food they put into their bodies affects them,” says Danelle Fisher, MD, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.

Parents can get that message across by talking with kids about the food they put in their bodies, why it matters, and how they can learn to make the healthiest choices.

Make sure healthy foods are the default setting for your family’s meals, and get everyone involved in choosing some nutritious, tasty options. Take kids with you to the grocery store or farmers market. Younger kids can pick out fresh fruits and veggies. Older kids can take on larger roles like choosing recipes and making a shopping list.

Explain that they should fill half their plate with fruits and veggies that have nutrients that will help their bodies grow. The other half should be whole grains and lean protein that gives them energy to run, dance, and play. When you’re cooking or grocery shopping, show them different examples of these key food groups.

Kids should learn that all foods have a place in their diet. Label foods as “go,” “slow,” or “whoa.” Kids can “green light” foods like whole grains and skim milk they should have every day and “slow down” with less healthy foods like waffles. Foods with the least nutrition, such as french fries, don’t need to be off-limits, but kids should stop and think twice before they eat them often.

It’s not just what kids eat that matters, but how much. Even very young kids can learn that the amount of rice or pasta they eat should match the size of their fist. Protein should be palm-sized, and fats like butter or mayonnaise about the tip of their thumb. When you buy packaged foods, have kids help you find the serving size. Then talk about why sticking to it is a good idea.

Explain to older kids that while candy and cookies taste good, sugar can do their body more harm than good. (You can tell younger kids that too many sweets will make them feel “yucky.”) Then, offer fresh fruit for desserts and limit treats to two or three times a week to keep cravings for sweets in check.

We’re born knowing to eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full. But that’s easy to ignore when you’re surrounded by snacks and giant portions. To help kids listen to their bodies, don’t push them to have “one more bite” or clean their plate.  Turn off screens during meals, too. They distract kids from paying attention to how much they’re eating and when they’ve had enough.

If you push your kids to eat broccoli but never touch it yourself, you might need to take a closer look at your diet. Every bite you take matters. “Role modeling is one of the best ways to get your children onboard with healthier eating,” says Stephanie Middleberg, a registered dietitian in New York City.

Kids who eat meals with their family are more likely to eat healthy fruits, veggies, and whole grains. (They’re also less apt to snack on junk food.) You don’t need to lecture about nutrition while you eat. Make meals together fun. Turn on some music, choose silly games to play, or let kids invite a friend.

If you think your child needs to lose or gain weight, don’t put them on a diet. Instead, speak to his doctor. “Your pediatrician can help you discuss basic food groups, meal time behaviours, food portions, and weight,” Fisher says.

Reference: Stephanie Booth by GrowWebMD

Overcoming the Fear of Making Mistakes

Overcoming the Fear of Making Mistakes

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.” This is a famous quote from Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Intuitively, we know that perfectionism is unrealistic and restrictive, a tyrant that steals success. In fact, there are many sayings and experts that stress the importance of making mistakes for creating and achieving great things.

But still, there are many people who fear to make mistakes. According to Martin Antony, Ph.D, professor of psychology at Ryerson University and co-author of When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough, “Generally, fears are influenced by both our biological and genetic makeup, as well as our experiences.”

We model what we see, Antony said. He gave the example of parents expressing their fears over making mistakes, which a child, like a sponge, soaks up.

The messages we receive from others, including friends, employers and the media, also play a role. “The constant pressure to improve performance can have the effect of triggering fears of underperforming and of making mistakes,” Antony said. He added that constant criticism has a similar impact.



Having some fear of mistakes can be a good thing, Antony said — it can help to improve your performance. But excessive fear causes problems. For instance, you might start avoiding fear-provoking situations. “[People] may avoid social situations (meetings, dating, presentations), for fear of making some sort of blunder, and they may procrastinate for fear of not being able to complete a task perfectly”, Antony said.

Or you might engage in “safety behaviors” to prevent making mistakes. Antony defined safety behaviors as “small behaviors to protect oneself from perceived dangers.” So you might spend hours pouring over your work to make sure it’s mistake-free.

“Overcoming any fear involves confronting the feared stimulus directly”, Antony said. For instance, he and other perfectionism experts recommend people practice making small mistakes with mild consequences – and stop engaging in safety behaviors.

Changing perfectionistic thinking also is important since it’s our thoughts, our interpretations of what’s occurring around us, that perpetuate perfectionism. As Antony and co-author Richard Swinson, M.D., write in When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough, we actually don’t fear making mistakes. We fear what we believe about making mistakes. That’s what’s upsetting or anxiety-producing for us.

“Perhaps you assume that making mistakes will lead to some terrible consequence that can’t be corrected or undone (such as being fired or ridiculed by others). Or you may believe that making mistakes is a sign of weakness or incompetence,” they write.

Perfectionists tend to take such distorted thoughts as gospel. In their book, Antony and Swinson explain how readers can alter their perfectionistic thinking with these four steps:

  • identify the perfectionistic thought;
  • list alternative thoughts;
  • think about the pros and cons of both your thoughts and the alternative thoughts; and
  • pick a more realistic or helpful way to view the situation

They give the example of a man who feels embarrassed and anxious after making a joke that others didn’t seem to find funny. Initially, he thinks that others see him as awkward and boring, and won’t like him if he’s not entertaining.

His alternative thoughts are that people won’t judge him based on one measly uncomfortable situation; and they find him interesting, anyway. When evaluating these thoughts, he realizes that his friends know him well, and even though they make bad jokes, he still enjoys their company. Plus, people invite him to functions, so they must find him entertaining.

In the end, he picks this more realistic and helpful perspective: “Perhaps I need to give myself permission to make mistakes when I am talking to other people. I don’t judge other people when they say something unusual or awkward. Perhaps they are not judging me when I make mistakes.”

Instead of assuming your thoughts are facts, Antony also asks people to test their beliefs with small experiments. “For example, if someone is convinced that mispronouncing a word would be a disaster, we might encourage him or her to mispronounce a word and see what happens.”

Examining the evidence for your perfectionistic assumptions is another way to alter distorted thoughts. For instance, let’s say you believe that getting less than an A on your research paper is terrible and unacceptable. According to Antony and Swinson, “you could try to recall what happened in the past when you received a lower grade on a paper or exam. Did you survive the experience? What happens when other people receive grades that are lower than an A? Do terrible things occur as a result?”

While it might feel like your fear of mistakes is unshakeable, fortunately, there are many effective, practical strategies to overcome perfectionism. If your fear seems excessive and impairs your functioning, don’t hesitate to see a mental health professional.

Reference: Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. from Psychcentral