As parents, we have big hopes and dreams for our children. We want them to be successful, healthy, happy and kind. And somewhere in there, we often hope they will grow up to change the world in some way. If you’re that kind of dreamer, here are some practical ideas to help raise world-changing kids.
If you’ve got kids in your life, you’ll know that there is no shortage of quandaries to solve when it comes to raising them. But one of the big questions is this: When our children have access to so much choice and opportunity, how do we raise them to see injustice, which leaves so many with nothing? How do we teach them to care, to have conviction, to make change? How do we raise kids to be excellent human beings?
It’s not always easy, especially when it means instilling values that sometimes go against the grain of the society they’re living in.
If you want your children to grow up planning to be world changes, here are 8 practical ideas to help get them there.
1) Teach your kids about poverty
Our instinct can be to protect our kids from bad news. It’s natural to want to shelter them from some of the horrors of the real world. But if we want to raise world-changing kids, it is important to have age-appropriate conversations with them about poverty. Anna Goodworth is a US mother and author. She encourages parents to teach their kids about global poverty from a young age.
“Every parent has to be smart about what their kid’s temperament is. You don’t have to talk about sex trafficking, but you can talk about kids who are forced to work,” Anna says. “It’s sad that we don’t give them things to worry about that they can change. We always have things to worry about, but it’s just what is it and how much power do we have to change it.”
A few years ago, Anna taught her children about slavery. Her kids were only aged 5 and 7 at the time but they had lots of questions especially if slavery still existed. Once they understood that it did, they decided to take practical action. Her kids wrote letters to their congress members and helped influence one of their representatives to support an anti-trafficking bill, which is now law. That is world-changing!
2) Cultivate a family culture of generosity
Not all families talk openly about money, but many of us would like some more of it, including our kids! Countering a ‘never enough’ mindset and cultivating a culture of generosity in your family takes an intentional decision. Involving kids in discussions about your family finances and how you can use some of your income to invest in world-changing projects can be a really powerful way to open your children’s eyes to the positive power of money.
As a family, you could you could create your own emergency fund for donating to crises, either globally or in your own community. Or you could set a saving goal so you can sponsor a child or another one if you’re already sponsoring. Whatever your family’s world-changing investment looks like, involve your kids in the decision-making process and ensure they are part of the implementation too, so they have ownership in your family commitment to living generously.
3) Make it personal
For lots of kids, poverty and lots of other big issues seem a distant concept, far removed from their own reality. Finding ways to bring the need of others closer to your child’s world can help make the issues personal. Sponsoring a child is great for kids because it creates a unique connection with another human being that can be life changing for everyone. You get to know your sponsored child over time through photos, videos, and messages, and your kids can also learn about the country they live in, the culture, the food, the politics, the tourist attractions, the challenges – and when we can travel again, you can even choose to meet them face to face. It’s a great way to broaden their horizons, but in a personal and relatable way.
Kids love mail and that makes sponsoring a child exciting for them, too. They can develop their own communication skills while giving something very special to their sponsored child. Our research shows that sponsored children who exchange letters with their sponsor experience more hope, happiness and confidence.
4) Learn about your sponsored child’s life
Being a child sponsor gives your kids the chance to learn how different – and sometimes how similar! – life in other parts of the world can be. Exploring some of the challenges your sponsored child and their community face is a great way for your kids to find out about some global issues and how they impact a real person – and inspire them to look for solutions.
The community information updates and videos you receive about your sponsored child are a great starting place to understand some of the issues they are facing. You will also find some detailed information when you receive your Annual Progress Report and you can always broaden the learning opportunity by doing your own research into some of the issues you discover. Exploring why good nutrition or clean water is so important to a child’s health and wellbeing, or how access to education can empower children to escape from poverty, could open your kids’ eyes into some of the big challenges other kids face and galvanise their commitment to fighting injustice.
5) Nurture their passions
Kids are naturally more interested in some issues than others – so just go with it! Some kids will be really moved by some of the issues impacting their sponsored child – perhaps water or drought. For older kids it may be problems like child marriage or child trafficking. Other kids will connect more to climate change or conservation. Whatever it is, encouraging them in their passions and the issues that interest them is a great way to nurture a world-changing worldview.
Oe way to turn their passions into positive action is to help them raise funds for a cause they want to get behind. If your kids are passionate about ending hunger, your family could raise funds for a current crisis like the Tigray Crisis Appeal helping to provide emergency food supplies for children in Ethiopia. Or if your kids are passionate about indigenous issues you could raise money to build a brighter future for First Nations Australians. If your family loves bike riding, mountain climbing, knitting, singing or just about any other activity, you could harness two passions in one and set yourself a fundraising challenge that your friends and family sponsor you to achieve. It’s a great opportunity to encourage your kids in their passions and help them make a real difference, while also bonding together as a family.
6) Look for learning opportunities
If you’re not sure where to start your family’s social justice learning journey, current events are a great way to start! Talk with your kids about what’s happening in the news right now, both locally and globally, and look for ways you can bring the issues to life for your children. Once you start looking, you’ll be amazed at how many events and activities are going on in your local area, from tree planting days to multicultural festivals hosted by refugee groups. International recognition days can also be a fantastic way to get your family thinking about some issues you might never have considered, and there is a wealth of great resources available online to dig into anything that piques your interest.
Of course, it’s important not to get overwhelmed. Anna Goodworth suggests focusing on one issue at a time, and mapping out ways your family can take practical action over a set period, like the summer break. Anna says this approach helps motivate kids to engage, without overwhelming them with multiple issues simultaneously.
“I may say, ‘Okay, this week it’s refugees. Let’s read one book on refugees and do one act of service. Let’s bring cookies to some refugees living in a nearby apartment,’” she says. “It doesn’t have to be much, but it should expose them and empower them in some way.”
7) Connect your kids with needs in their own backyard
It’s difficult for our kids to understand need if they never see it with their own eyes. You can start small by having simple conversations with your kids, exploring their responses when they notice needs around them, posing probing questions and recognising when it is appropriate to expose them on a more personal, meaningful level. This could involve helping at a local soup kitchen, visiting the elderly in your neighbourhood aged care facility, or helping the single parent next door with daily chores. Whatever it is, small actions will help your kids identify the needs around them and become more aware of ways they can make a difference.
8) Don’t force it
Kids are all different. Some will clearly be passionate world-changers from day one while others may develop empathy and the confidence to take action later in life. No matter where your child is at, they will have days and moments where they just don’t get it, or they act selfishly. That’s ok! If your kids aren’t showing interest right now, Anna Goodworth recommends waiting for an opportunity when they are engaged again. Like in all areas of their life, kids will learn and grow in their own way and at their own pace, and sometimes they need space to do that.
Anna says, “Sometimes they get tired of me. They’ll get really selfish, and I want to hammer it down, and that’s not right. They’re just kids figuring it out, so sometimes we just lay off of it.”