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In episode 108, I’m chatting with Natalie Silverstein about her new book, Simple Acts: The Busy Family’s Guide to Giving Back. We talk about the importance of instilling the value of service and acts of kindness. She shares how she created a resource of volunteer opportunities for parents and children in her community and what led to her writing this book for families. It is full of ways to make time in your family’s busy life for service and suggestions for making service part of your family’s culture.

Big Ideas

  • Doing service, acts of kindness, helping others is a wonderful way to grow empathy, compassion, and open-mindedness in young children.
  • Studies show that people who volunteer with their families as children are more likely to do so as an adult.
  • Studies also show that volunteering makes you happier and healthier.
  • There are many ways to give back which don’t require scheduling, spending a lot of money, or volunteering formally. It can be incorporated into the things families are already doing: playdates, holidays, vacations, etc.
  • Involve your kids when deciding who to help, how to serve, and which charities to support. You can follow their lead and they will be more invested.
  • When we make service a priority, we find the time to make it happen.
  • There are people in need all year long, not just during the holidays.
  • Social media can be a helpful tool for people to promote positive messages and acts of kindness. It can also be a way to get family and friends involved in service.

Quotes

Natalie: “All of these life skills that kids get a camp are values that parents want to demonstrate and model at home.”

Natalie: “I do believe that this work begins at home with very young children. Anything we can do to incorporate these acts of kindness into camp life, into extracurricular activities, and most importantly, into our weekends in our free time, is really so important.”

Natalie: “It creates a foundation, a moral base for kids, from which they grow.”

Natalie: “Everybody has a laundry list of extracurricular activities and tutoring and sports and ballet and instruments and all of these things. We don’t necessarily prioritize taking time out to say ‘no’ to some of those things and ‘yes’ to service and acts of kindness and volunteering together.”

Audrey: “It’s a partnership. It starts at home and then you try to find places like schools, religious organizations, and camps, that also support and reinforce those values that you’re trying to teach your kids.

Audrey: “We can’t do it alone. If we’re all trying together to promote these things, it works so much better and our kids turn out a lot better, too.”

Audrey: “As individuals, we all have different things that bring us flow. I think just like regular work, our volunteering should also be something that’s in our wheelhouse, things we enjoy doing.”

Natalie: “We are all moving through our days, interacting with other human beings. Teach your child to make eye contact with the person behind the counter, hold the door, thank the postman. There are things you can be doing at every moment, almost every day.”

Natalie: “This is not rocket science. I think the theme of my book is you don’t have to change the world to change the world. You don’t have to fly to Africa and build a school to make an impact on someone else’s life.”

Natalie: “Give (your children) the opportunity and don’t make it negotiable. Say, ‘This is what we do. This is how our family operates. Find the thing that really speaks to you and then let’s find a way for you to give back in that realm.’ It just builds on itself for kids.”

Natalie: “Instead of saying you don’t have time for something, change it and say it’s not a priority and then see how that feels.”

Natalie: “We want to model our values. We want to live our values, perform service and acts of kindness, and just treat people the right way out in the world.”

Natalie: “These are all things that people can be doing if they’re mindful of it. It needs to be intentional. Just like everything in parenting. We need to be thinking about what it is that we can show our kids every day as we walk through our lives that this is how we care about others because we hope that they care about us in the same way.”

Audrey: “If you find something that you really enjoy doing, then you’ll keep doing it and it will bring you a lot of joy, too.”

Natalie: “You’re helping others in the community, doing something substantive. But you’re also creating really nice warm family memories and I think those are the things that people remember as adults.”

Natalie: “There are so many little things that kids can be doing You just have to keep your mind open to it and your heart open to it.”

Natalie: “You don’t have to go out and do this huge, enormous, time-consuming, expensive thing. It’s just the little things and they’re like drops in a bucket. They add up and they fill the cup of your child’s emerging character. It makes a difference in who they are.”

Natalie: “It’s about mindfulness and keeping an open heart and an open mind and really just reminding your children to think outside of themselves.”

Natalie: “If we can get young people on social media channels to turn the narrative around such that we are putting up instead of putting down–promote the good and spread the good–that can be very powerful.”

Natalie: “If I’m hosting a play date and these kids are already drawing or painting or making cookies, that can have a service or kindness element built into it. Then even better, go for a walk in the community and deliver those cookies to the local firehouse. This is all part of making it social, making it fun, doing it with other people.”

Audrey: “It’s just so important. We need to counter the negative. Cyberbullying is at an all-time high. If we can just get our kids to flip this and be more focused on what good they can do, then that would make this a kinder world.”

Natalie: “All of these life skills we learn are tiny drops in the bucket of a child’s developing character. If you’re not modeling this behavior, if you are screaming at the person behind the counter or the other driver in the car, the way you show your child how you hold the door, how you greet the postal worker by name, it’s really powerful. By showing kids ‘how we do it in our house’, it sticks. It just sticks.”

About Natalie

Natalie Silverstein is an author, volunteer and passionate advocate for family service. After a 15-year career in hospital administration, managed care and healthcare consulting, she now works as a freelance writer and editor with a particular focus on the non-profit sector and community service. Her first book, Simple Acts: The Busy Family’s Guide to Giving Back, was published by Gryphon House on April 1, 2019.

In September 2013, Natalie launched the first local affiliate of Doing Good Together (www.doinggoodtogether.org), a Minneapolis-based nonprofit with the mission of helping parents raise kids who care and contribute. As the New York area coordinator, she curates a free monthly e-mail listing of family-friendly service opportunities that are distributed to thousands of subscribers.

Natalie is a frequent writer, speaker, and consultant on the topic of family and youth service, presenting to parents, educators, and children across New York City. She is also a contributor to parenting blogs, GrownandFlown.com, and Mommypoppins.com.

Along with her husband, she is the co-founder of The Silverstein Foundation for Parkinson’s with GBA(www.silversteinfoundation.org),a nonprofit focused on finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease in GBA mutation carriers, and serves as Executive Director and a member of the Board of Directors.

Natalie earned an undergraduate degree in health policy and administration from Providence College and a master’s degree in public health from Yale University.

Links

Doing Good Together

#CampKindnessDay

Simple Acts Facebook Page

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Why My Family is Celebrating World Kindness Day

Focusing on Kindness

 

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