It’s summer time and the living is easy. Well. if you’re a mom that is probably not exactly true. But at the very least, the slower routines of summer can offer us time to really invest in our kids and be intentional about the way we spend our time with them.
One glance at Pinterest and you would see that the pressure for a mom to create summer fun is heating up. It seems the world is demanding a certain level of summer perfection from us moms. And insisting that it is what our kids most need to be happy.
Can I ask you to take a deep breath for just a minute while I gently let you off the hook? Can I assure that while creative ways to improve your backyard and eat ALL the varieties of s’mores might indeed build happy memories for your kids, you can rest assured that their long term happiness is not dependent upon how many kinds of lemonade you can make in mason jars with cute lids and put in a wheel barrow in your back yard while you project an IMAX movie over your pool?
Can I challenge you to consider slowing down the summer hype and thinking of another way of being intentional with your kids this summer? A way that I think might actually contribute to their long term well-being and happiness? What if you set aside some time this summer to help your kids do a little good? Introduce them a need, give them a personal connection to it, and show them ways they personally could contribute to meeting that need and making the world a better place.
I often say that the biggest challenge to engaging more families as advocates for the poor is stopping the crazy hamster wheel of life long enough to get them to think about it, talk about it, and take action. Maybe God is offering your family that chance this summer.
I think another reason we sometimes end up pushing a commitment to serve the poor to the proverbial back burner of our lives is because we find it overwhelming. There is so much need, there are so many organizations, that it is hard to know where to plug in and what you can do. But the truth is, doing good is actually quite simple. And it is something your family, no matter how small or large, no matter how high your level of chaos, can accomplish.
Here is a simple five step plan for helping your kids do a little good this summer:
Step 1: Find a need, a cause or a story that inspires you. Don’t complicate this. Take a couple of days to pray as a family, share some ideas, let your kids tell you what is important to them and what they care about. Stumped? Call your local parish and ask them what outreach in your area they would recommend you supporting. Ask a friend who inspires you what she would choose. Ask a trusted priest. We’d love for you consider adopting one of the projects of St. Bryce Missions but what is more important is that you find something your family connects with and can be passionate about. Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, help an orphan find a home, fight human trafficking, help a seminarian in a developing nation pay for school, help moms get adequate prenatal care. Choose what speaks to your family’s heart.
Step 2: Connect your kids to the cause. Talk to your kids about the need you are going to try to meet or the organization you are going to support. If it is something local, take them for a visit. If it is a global project, show them pictures, read them the stories of the people they are helping. Help them e-mail the organization or write a letter. Print out a picture for your family’s prayer spot. Light a candle in Church after Mass one day and pray for the people you hope to help.
Step 3: Create an action plan. Decide what your family can do to raise funds and create awareness for the cause you have chosen. Don’t focus on amounts, but on what your family has to offer. Have lots of littles? Maybe a quick lemonade stand in the front yard will do the trick. This post has fun printables and a lemonade recipe to borrow. Have a house full of girls looking to beat the heat? Have them bake or make homemade popsicles to sell. Far away from extended family and friends? Host a Skype rally. Call and have the kids tell family about what they are doing and see if they might want to become a part of it. Have a lot of active boys? Let them wash cars or do yard work for neighbors in exchange for a donation. Animal lovers in your house? Have a dog bath in your front yard! Feeling the whole Pinterest summer thing? Then get crafty and make something to sell. Or host a backyard movie night with pretty snacks and ask guests to make a contribution to your cause. It’s summer. Make it playful and fun. Your goal is for your kids to feel involved, be able to articulate who they are helping and why, and for more people to learn about the need. Whatever money you might raise is a lagniappe blessing (that’s Louisiana for “a little something extra, by the way).
Step 4: Make your donation and report back to those who helped. Try to make your kids part of the donation process. Let them hand in the change to be counted at the bank or make the deposit. Let them help you write the check or click the Paypal buttons. So often we do the giving and our kids are not even aware of it. Also, let them share the excitement. It is great fun to be able to share the joy of helping others with friends. Your kids will beam with pride when they can report back to family and friends with their success. Consider taking their photo and passing it along to the organization as well. I know we at St. Bryce Missions are always encouraged by the faces of little ones and families who are supporting what we do.
Step 5: Discuss how you can stay connected. Once your summer plan is accomplished, take some time to discuss with your kids how you as a family might stay connected your cause. Can you subscribe to their news letter and read it as a family? Can you continue to commit to lighting a candle and praying after Mass every week or month? Can you set aside some time or make some sacrifice that would enable you to contribute on a monthly or regular basis? Kids attach easily and get excited quickly. But they will fizzle out and forget without support. Take advantage of what you have accomplished to help them build a long term relationship with someone in need or a group doing good in some part of the world. Plus, then you’re off the hook for fall, winter and spring Pinterest madness too.
Copyright 2014 Colleen C. Mitchell. This article was originally posted at CatholicMom.com in 2014 and is reprinted here as part of our “From the Archives” feature.