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A few weeks ago, another school parent generously donated a set of netball equipment to the Year 2 team which I am managing. Feeling bad that it had taken me so long, a week later I dropped a card and a bottle of wine into her workplace after school drop-off to say thank you on behalf of the team. At lunchtime I received a message from her saying thank you, that she was having a tough day and it cheered her right up. Well this cheered me right up too, for the rest of the day. I was so grateful that my small gesture had been able to brighten up someone else’s day.
This is consistent with the positive psychology research that giving is good for us! I am entirely convinced that brightening up this kind lady’s day gave me far more pleasure than drinking the bottle of wine would have! I love this research as it suggests that whilst we are doing good for others it also benefits us! The many benefits of helping others include increasing social connectedness, lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, increased self-esteem and releasing happy hormones in our brain which, well… make us feel happier!
It is not only adults who benefit from giving to others, it is a fantastic concept to teach young children, and there are a number of children’s books which do just this. Carol McCloud and David Messing’s book ‘Have you Filled a Bucket Today?’ beautifully introduces the concept of giving when they talk of bucket-fillers (givers) and bucket dippers (takers). Several other children’s resources are listed below, including our Weaverbirds Printable activity ‘30 Days of Giving Challenge.’
Those who are not yet convinced about the benefits of increasing their child’s awareness of the joys of giving, may be interested to learn more…
Most of us like to feel we are in control of our own decisions, and the same goes for acts of kindness. Imagine the murmurings of resentment rippling through the kitchen when you insist your child does the washing up to help out. Contrast this with the pleasure and pride your child would experience should they choose to acknowledge that they are so grateful for all you do, and they would like to volunteer to do something nice for you and clean up after dinner.
When we see or know that the outcome of our efforts is positive, it is satisfying - ‘I can do this!’ When we go to the beach and collect all the plastic along the shoreline, and then walk back along a clean beach, it is rewarding - knowing we have made a difference. We can see the difference! We leave the beach looking at its best for others to enjoy and we also know that we are benefitting marine life too. The same goes for holding the lift open for someone who is rushing to hop in – the sense of gratitude and relief we see on their face – knowing we are the one who was able to make this difference.
Connection to others
In the process of giving we are likely to both feel and see the positive effects of our kindness on others, and this makes us feel closer to them. Connection to others has been found to be key in health, wellbeing and longevity. When taking a look through the ideas attached in ‘30 Ways of Giving’ it is not difficult to see how actioning many of these would increase our sense of social connectedness. Imagine the pleasure your child would see in your face when they have chosen you to ‘Give someone a list of things you love about them.’ We would be hard pushed not to stop what we are doing and give them an enveloping hug!
We hope you will enjoy supporting your child in their quest to be giving to others. You may like to support them in their efforts to complete ‘30 Days of Giving Challenge,’ reading some uplifting ‘giving’ books or pursuing your own interest by tuning into some adults’ podcasts such as the one below ‘Helping Others Makes Us Happier.’
One of my kind friends told me that when she was feeling sad her mother would say to her, ‘How about going and making yourself feel better by doing something for someone else?’ What a great legacy for her child!
Have you Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud and David Messing
The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Pass it On by Sophie Henn
Do Unto Otters – A Book About Manners by Laurie Keller