To be fully prepared to participate as active, contributing members of our society and world our children need to learn to be responsible for themselves, others and the environment. This deeper level of responsibility or social responsibility includes an awareness and growing appreciation of our connectedness to and interdependence on each other and our environment. On their way to becoming adults, the development of social responsibility can help our children find out who they are, what they can do and where they fit in our world. Parents (and communities) can provide opportunities for children and youth to learn about their world and how to contribute to the greater good and provide recognition to reinforce this.
By creating a caring and loving home environment, teaching children the importance of their actions and decisions, and teaching them the values of respect and concern for others, parents can build the foundation for social responsibility. Numerous lessons and opportunities abound in every day family life. When a child does something that hurts their brother or sister, parents can help them to reflect on how the other person feels as a result of what they did and how they might make amends or do things differently next time. Over time and with regular practice, children can grow in self control and accountability for their actions. Parents can extend the opportunities to care beyond the family to include others in their community including people in need. They also teach how a small act can make a big difference. Taking your child to visit an older adult in the community who lives alone or in a nursing home or helping them pack up some of the clothing and toys they have outgrown to bring to children at the local homeless shelter can reinforce the lesson of caring for others and social responsibility.
When you are a child, who takes care of you? Now, the cost of living is so high that many people under age twenty-five are moving back in with their parents. Young people are getting married later now than they used to. The average age for a woman to get married is about twenty-four, and for a man twenty-six. Newly married couples often postpone having children while they are establishing careers. ...
Our children are eager to learn about their world along with what they can do to make a difference. Keeping in mind the age of the child and having fun together while connecting often with the natural world together is important. Creating opportunities for young children to learn about the environment can be as simple as taking a walk in the woods, visiting a local farm or planting a garden. Any of these activities can stimulate your child’s natural curiosity while providing many teachable moments to talk about the delicate balance of nature and our responsibility to preserve it.
As children become school-age and adolescents, parents and community members can further promote their development by deepening their understanding of and responses to issues affecting their communities and world. You can work individually with your child or have them work along with others on developing community service projects in response to a community need, an environmental issue or a larger social issue. Food drives, volunteering in a soup kitchen or food pantry, developing recycling programs, raising awareness of an environmental issue, collecting much needed items for disaster relief victims are all possible activities that can serve to deepen social responsibility and social action. Raising money for a cause or teaching children to use part of their allowance to donate directly to an organization are additional possibilities for parents to consider.
Parents can also teach their children about social responsibility by making volunteering and community service priority activities for the family. Parents may be unaware of their influence on their children especially as they become teens but our children seem to learn much from what we do. There is evidence that suggests that parents who act as role models and who participate in volunteering and community service have children and teens that do the same. A recent national study from the Corporation for National and Community Service, Building Active Citizens: The Role of Social Institutions in Teen Volunteering, Brief 1 in the Youth Helping America Series, Washington, DC. November 2005, reported that “teens with parents who volunteer were almost twice as likely to volunteer and nearly three times more likely to volunteer on a regular basis.” The report underscores the importance of the family in shaping youth attitudes and behaviors.
Single parenting begins with the divorce of a couple who have children. Approximately ninety percent of all minor children live primarily with their mothers. Non custodial fathers usually have less than biweekly contact with their children, and involvement usually declines as time goes by. Since most single-parent households are mother-headed, and have only one income, often below that of a man. ...
Other institutions are important in the development of youth volunteering. Increasingly schools, religious institutions and other public and private organizations are recognizing and supporting youth involvement in community service and service learning to more fully prepare students for responsible citizenship. In fact, these activities have been shown to have many positive effects for both students and their communities. Families and other social institutions can work together to make sure that all youth have access to opportunities that support their learning of social responsibility.
There are many resources available to help parents teach their children to care about others and their environment. For ideas go to Zoom into Action, check out volunteering as a family and other resources from the Points of Light Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office and also the resources of 4-H. For organizations that provide volunteer experiences for children, youth and families contact your local volunteer center on the web or in the yellow pages of your phone book. For example, United Way of the Greater Seacoast Volunteer Action Center and Voluntary Action Center in Manchester can provide you, your family or group with rewarding and enjoyable volunteer opportunities in a one time or an ongoing capacity.