How can we teach our children to go beyond themselves and be more others-centered? To groom children to be capable individuals, it is equally crucial for them to be shaped by good values.
Years ago, preschool educator Ms Charlotte Leong and her Kindergarten 2 students and their families participated in the annual Singapore Children’s Society Walk. And what Ms Leong observed in her young students during and after the fundraiser event stuck an imprint in her mind.
“When the children realised money was donated for the number of steps they took, they were determined to walk a longer distance and at a faster pace. When they got back to class, they were more generous to one another,” says the teacher. She adds that this would not have been possible without the support of the children’s parents.
Community involvement is no less important than the academic achievement of our children. Children learn to appreciate the values of empathy, thoughtfulness, and the need to be more big-hearted in their actions though exposure to community service. Being involved in the community is also a great opportunity for children to broaden their learning experiences, providing them with a sense of belonging bigger than their immediate home environment.
Mrs Zita Tan, Director of Pebble Place Development Center claims that it is through community involvement that children can better integrate into society. “It teaches them to be universal in one’s outlook instead of thinking only of themselves,” Mrs Tan shared.
Its You And Me That Builds Community
Teaching children the value of giving back to society is an important life lesson that cannot be left to teachers to teach. Parents play a significant role in engaging their children in community involvement. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), children need to be involved at the community level in order to understand the values that go along with it.
Mr Adrian Tan Kim Cheng who is from the pioneer generation, mentions that community involvement in the past was a daily commitment where people initiate and lend a helping hand whenever help was needed. People were intrinsically motivated to help, with a significant meaning beyond words; it was about cohesiveness and to bring the good out of people.
Today, the idea and perception of community involvement has changed. Ms Cynthia Teo, Constituency Manager of Fengshan Community Club, shares that acts of community service have dwindled over time as youths are becoming less involved. It now mostly consists of people-initiated movements with incentives, to encourage participation amongst young Singaporeans.
What Can Parents Do
Regular visits and involvement in local volunteering service organisations such as Willing Hearts and Lions Befriender can be a great platform for families to allow children to develop a deeper understanding about caring and helping others. You can also work collaboratively with your child’s school and participate in fundraising activities or create interactive programs for the elderly living in homes. Frequent interactions with them allow children to better appreciate the pioneers of our society.
At home, you can instill values of community involvement through various activities. Reading books creates teachable moments, allowing children to gain knowledge and exposing them to values such as kindness and friendship. Books by Kevin Henkes and publishing companies such as Conari Press has a great amount of stories on morals that encourages children to look out for others.
The practice of “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle” can also be exercised at home to promote conservation and sustainability of resources. By donating items such as toys, books and other resources, children can then better appreciate people and the environment.
The community plays an important role in the growth and development of children, and being part of it provides you and other parents the opportunity to come together and work hand-in-hand in creating meaningful experiences for children.
You don’t have to wait for your child’s school to initiate a project. Take some time over the weekend to do something with your family.
A kinder and more ‘others-centered’ society begins with little hands.
By Audrea Sze, Bianca Tan and Carina Teo
This was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine