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There is a chant that goes up from little people all over the world. It is the song of bored children and it can drive overworked parents out of their gourds.
But there is a chorus to this song that the parents can share—service projects can bring harmony into the home, the neighborhood and the community.
Teaching children to add service to their list of good adult qualities they need to work towards can happen during summer vacation can combat the whining and misery. Here are a few ideas to get them started, but encourage them to come up with some on their own as well.
In the home
Volunteering to serve family in the home is the best place to learn. Start the summer focusing on home. It begins with learning to look around with a scrutinizing eye and being able to see what needs done. Teach kids to be private investigators and look for clues around them. They can smell that dinner is almost ready, but see that the table is not yet set. They can feel the summer shower begin, but notice that the car windows are down. They can hear that their sibling is sick and see that their water glass is empty. Teach the little sleuths to pick up on clues and then jump in to save the day. At dinner, praise the good Samaritans on their keen ability to not only notice the clues, but to then jump in and solve the problem. For older children, skip the junior detective schtick and lay on the kudos. As you do so, they will likely continue in their good-deeding.
In the neighborhood
There is a very good chance that you have neighbors who are elderly, have small children, are disabled or living alone. There is nearly always someone close by that needs help, and this provides an opportunity for your children to begin thinking outside their own environment. As they master the home phase, broaden their circle of service by mentioning things you observe in your neighborhood. "I noticed Mrs. Wilson struggling to get her trash cans to the curb." "With his wife in the hospital, I noticed that Mr. Smith seems a little overwhelmed with those little kids of his." "I feel like baking some cookies. Who do you think might like a batch?" Allow them to pick up on the clues and if they offer, support them fully in their service. If they don't offer, suggest and, again, lend your support.