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Teaching Kids to Make A Difference In The World


By Sally Sacks

Look at the adult who feels that they are 50 or so years old, and haven't done anything in their life that really matters. Many children grow up thinking more about financial success, making money, what you can buy, often at the expense of wanting to help others, or even knowing how others have to live. It is important to teach your children to care about others more than themselves. When children are made aware of the importance of helping others, they become better rounded and emotionally aware. They become more productive leaders.

One of the best lessons that I learned as a kid was how others less fortunate lived. I grew up in an upper middle class suburb, where pretty much no one I knew wanted for much. My dad in 1968 drove us all down through the Deep South to see Martin Luther King's grave sight in Atlanta.

In the deep south I saw very poor black people in shacks, signs that promoted lynching, separate restaurants and bathrooms, poverty pain and sadness that I had never had. This opened my eyes and made me grateful for what I had and appreciative. That vision and example has stuck with me my whole life, and when I'm on the pity pot about something I remember how fortunate I am.

Live with great wealth, but also be happy with the important things in life such as love, family, friends, and even a great cup of coffee, should your wealth dwindle. If all your happiness is based on what you materially have, your happiness will fade quickly.

Recently I told my kids a story as they talked about themselves, being kids, and discussing what they wanted to have, and what so and so had and how cool that was, I decided without criticizing them, that now was the time to bring up what I call, a balancing story. It balances material thought with awareness and deeper thinking.

In this case the story was going to be about kids that had very little, and people who helped them for free. I told them about my trip to Mexico during the summer. I had been at a conference in San Diego and we took the bus to Tijuana where we found many poor, begging children on the street. They were kept out of school we were told and taught to beg because the families needed money. In our tour of the area the homes were like shacks and the clothes on the children were dirty and worn. The kids asked a lot of questions about Tijuana, the kids and why they were so poor. This opened us up to a whole discussion that I'm sure opened their eyes to a different world, and hopefully gave them a better appreciation of their life.

Find ways in your life to broaden your children's' thinking. Help them want to make a difference in the world by playing their part, even if their focus is on making money and achieving success financially. It's ok; they can have both drive, money opportunity, and contribute to and care about others. Here are some ways to help.

  1. Have them take cans with you to a local pantry or shelter.

  2. Have a yard sale and have them sell some of their unwanted things and contribute a portion of the money to a charity of their choice.

  3. Have them visit a grandparent aging quickly.

  4. During holidays contribute to a cause in their name, and let them see that in the paper.

  5. My kids that I work with sold some bracelets in their neighborhood and gave money to Katrina.

  6. Have your child contribute to locks for love, giving their hair to make wigs for those with cancer.

  7. Do a walk or race as a family.

  8. Work on the sidelines of a walk or race.

  9. Go to benefits and rummage sales that benefit others.

  10. Many belong to a local church or synagogue that offers opportunities to help.

  11. If you are traveling go to visit a place like Tijuana and let kids see how others less fortunate live.

The list goes on, but these suggestions should get you on your way. Enjoy what your children will learn from your active role in teaching them how to be more rounded kids and more responsible young people and adults.

Sally Sacks, M.Ed is a licensed psychotherapist, with 20 years of experience, counseling individuals, children, families and couples. Sally is the author of How to Raise the Next President, a groundbreaking parents' guide to teaching and instilling in their kids the qualities they'll need to be happy, successful and productive, no matter which path they choose in life. Sally offers personal and group coaching and can be reached through her website at


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