How to Raise a Charitable Child – Hidden Ways They Benefit

You know charity starts at home. Here’s how to cultivate a giving spirit in kids and start an UnSelfie Revolution, so they think we, not me!

Samantha is not yet 4 years old, but she already has the makings of a charitable child. She was distributing school supplies with her family to kids at a shelter and noticed one child in a corner didn’t have a backpack. She picked up a spare, walked to him and said, “I sorry you don’t have one. I hope you happy.”

The preschooler may have missed a few words. But her message displayed empathy and a charitable spirit, all because her parents were raising her to care about others. And the benefits of doing so? Oh, let me count the ways.

  • Over and over, researchers are finding that empathy is the cornerstone for becoming a happy, well-adjusted, successful adult.
  • Studies show that possessing empathy also makes children more likable, more employable, better leaders, more conscience-driven, and even increases their overall performance.

The best news is that empathy can be cultivated, and one of the best empathy generators are service projects to help kids step out of their comfort zones, open their eyes, and expose them to others’ lives. And there are other proven ways to raise an empathetic child as well. Here are simple, science-backed tips adapted for this blog from my book, “UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed In Our All-About-Me World” to inspire generosity in your children 365 days a year:

1. Prioritize caring. Harvard University’s Making Caring Common Project report, “The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults Are Sending About Values,” found that most teens value academic achievement and individual happiness over caring for others. Their reason for this? Kids believed that’s what adults value.

Prioritize charitableness in your family chats. Be clear that you expect them not only to do their academic best, but to care about others. Display photos of your kids engaged in thoughtful endeavors, rather than just showcasing their school successes, athletic prowess or having them look cute for the camera, so they recognize that how much they care about others matters to you.

2. Be a charitable role model. The old saying, “Children learn what they live,” has a lot of truth to it. Studies show that if parents are generous and giving, kids are likely to adopt those qualities. So show your child the joy you get by giving.

There are so many daily opportunities: phoning a friend who is down, collecting blankets for the homeless, volunteering at a food bank. After volunteering, be sure to tell your child how good it made you feel.

3. Make it a family routine. A simple way to inspire children’s generosity is by reinforcing it. Keep a box by your backdoor to encourage family members to donate their gently used toys, games or books. Then each time the box is filled, deliver the items as a family to a shelter or needy family. Make charity a routine ritual that becomes a cherished childhood memory.

4. Acknowledge charitableness. Whenever your child acts in a kind-hearted way, say so: Thank them for being kind or helping out. Also, let your kids overhear (without them thinking they’re supposed to) you describing their caring qualities to others.

5. Use real events. Instead of just bemoaning bad news, talk about how you might help in the local community. It could be donating items to help after a widely publicized fire, or thinking about ways to assist the most vulnerable – like the homeless – during the winter. You can start at home, too, such as teaching them to be there for a family member who is going through a hard time.

6. Start a “giving plan.” Encourage your children to give a portion of their allowance – or tooth fairy money – to a charity of their choice. Provide three small plastic containers for younger kids or envelopes for teens that are labeled: “Save,” “Spend,” and “Give,” and help them decide which percentage of their money is to be allocated to each container.

7. Find your child’s passion. Kids are more likely to want to get involved in service projects that match their interests. Help your kids choose something they’re good at and enjoy doing. If he loves reading: read to the blind; enjoys writing: be a pen pal to an overseas orphan; likes sports: volunteer for the Special Olympics; is musical: play at a homeless shelter; enjoys knitting: knit a beanie for a soldier. You get the idea.

8. Make charity a family affair – or share the experience with friends. Find a service to do together, like serving in a soup kitchen. If your child enjoys volunteering with friends, ask if she’d like to do her project with someone. Or your child can form a club with neighbors, classmates, members of their scout troop or a church group.

9. Recap their impact. Research has found that children who are given the opportunity to help others tend to become more helpful, especially if the impact of their helpful actions is pointed out. So encourage your child to reflect on her volunteering experiences: “What did the person do when you helped? How do you think he felt? How did you feel? Is lending a hand easier than it used to be?” And do remind your kids that their caring efforts are making a difference.

10. Keep giving. A once-a-year day of volunteering is rarely enough for a child to adopt a charitable mindset. Look for ways to help your children experience the joy of giving on a regular basis: baking an extra batch of cookies for the lonely neighbor next door, adopting an orphan overseas (a portion of their allowance each week goes to that child), singing to a nursing home to add a little joy. The goal of getting kids involved in charity is not about winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but to give them the opportunity to experience goodness.

The truth is, kids don’t learn how to be kind from reading about it in a textbook, but from doing kind deeds. The more children witness or experience what it feels like to give, the more likely they will develop a charitable spirit. And that’s how we’ll raise the next generation to be good, caring people.

What are you doing to help your children learn the value of giving to others?


UnSelfie 140x210Teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—along with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, it hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy. The good news? Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured. UnSelfie is a blueprint for parents and educators who want activate our children’s hearts and shift their focus from I, me, and mine… to we, us, and ours. It’s time to include “empathy” in our parenting and teaching! UnSelfie is AVAILABLE NOW at

Why Research Says it’s Actually Good for Kids to Daydream

School has been in session for a couple of months now, but winter break is still weeks away. This is prime time for kids to start to be a little less focused, distracted, and perhaps even daydream during school time. In our culture of hyper-stimulation and constant information flow, the idea of daydreaming often get met with judgmental glances and even reprimand from teachers. While we all want our kids to focus on their school work, research suggests that there may be a valuable place for daydreaming as well.

In recent years, researchers have begun to look into what the brain does during these times of “day dreaming” or what they call “inward attention.” They are beginning to see how time spent focused inward may actually help students focus better on outward tasks. Some research has shown that when times of inward reflection were incorporated into the school day, students often became less anxious, performed better on tests, and were able to plan more effectively.

Time for inward reflection is also linked to social-emotional development. In order to understand the feelings of others, our own feelings, and gain insight into moral decision-making, allowing time of inward reflection is necessary. Kids’ brains are still quite immature in many ways. If time is not allowed for them to decompress from constant input and have time to actually make meaning of all the information they absorb, it will ultimately have no place in their lives in the long-term.

This idea of inward attention, of course, goes against much of our cultural atmosphere at this time. We are constantly bombarded by information, technology, screens, etc. Even for adults, this constant stimulation can be overwhelming, but for kids it can be paralyzing. I’ve seen examples of this in my own experience with youngsters. While volunteering in my son’s kindergarten class, I sometimes notice kids just staring off into space and not “paying attention.” While they may seem “unfocused” to the observer, I wonder if they are not just having a moment of this “inward attention” to help their brain re-group from all the stimulation.

Children are learning and absorbing information almost constantly, especially at school. It’s great to be able to allow them some time to just day dream or let their mind wander without having to worry about the end product. I have noticed this even with my 3-year-old. After playing for a while, he will often just lay down and drink something or hold a toy, seemingly “doing nothing.” After a few minutes, however, he will perk up and say something clever or begin playing in a new way. It seems that, given the opportunity, kids will carve out this “day dreaming” time for themselves.

If this time of inward attention is so important for children’s development, how can we allow space for this in our homes?

  • Allow time after school for kids to “decompress” from the day without other forms of stimulation (e.g., TV, tablets, etc.)
  • Allow for quiet time on a regular basis. Kids may resist this at first, but once it becomes routine they usually learn to enjoy it. They can read books or play quietly with toys but the overall goal is time without a set goal or schedule.
  • Time in nature can often promote inward attention. Allow kids plenty of time to be outside, go for hikes or just play in the leaves.
  • Promote a mindset of reflection in your home. Recognize that not everything you or your child does has to be productive. This goes against what our culture tells us, but it’s possible. Your child spending an hour playing in the leaves or sitting in their room daydreaming is not “wasted time.”

We all know the importance of children learning to focus their attention on tasks or assignments. In fact, the ability to focus on a task and persist when it gets difficult has been linked to many positive outcomes for kids. An inward focus, however, may be equally important for children to help develop these focusing skills, as well as develop social-emotional skills.

Child Health & Safety News 11/5: When a Country Bans Spanking…

twitter thumbIn this week’s Child Safety News: Dressers Exempt From Industry Safety Standard Fail Consumer Reports’ Tests – New data show dressers 30 inches tall and under have been linked to deaths, so why aren’t they covered?

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use social media to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we overlook something, but overall we think we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. Still, quite a bit happens every day – so to make sure you don’t miss anything, we offer you a recap of this week’s top 20 events & stories.

  • Adulting: Teach Your (nearly) Grown Kids the 9 Skills They Need Now – Ask Doctor G 2018-11-04
  • Sharp Rise Seen in Kids’ ER Visits for Mental Health Woes 2018-11-04
  • In Mexico, an estimated 2300 children traveling with migrant caravan still in need of protection and support – UNICEF 2018-11-04
  • Research shows early introduction of peanut reduced the risk of allergy development in high-risk infants and may do the same for other foods. Don’t miss the discussion with MichaelPistiner Sunday at AAP18: 2018-11-04
  • It’s Daylight Savings: Check Smoke Alarms & Keep Your Family Safe with SafeKids Downloadable Fire Safety Checklist 2018-11-04

PedSafe Child Health & Safety News Headline of the Week
What Happens When A Country Bans Spanking?
A new study looking at 400,000 youths from 88 countries has answers

  • Doctors’ son died 10 days before flu shot appointment. Now, they want to save your child 2018-11-04
  • Over a million Texas children could qualify for subsidized child care — but less than 10 percent of them receive it 2018-11-03
  • How Can You Get Your Kid to Go to Sleep More Easily? 2018-11-03
  • 10th Patient Dies in Viral Outbreak at New Jersey Pediatric Facility. 27 cases have been associated with the respiratory virus at the center 2018-11-02
  • Teens and parents discover how to address cyberbullying with help from Microsoft Store | 2018-11-02
  • Tree of Life – Talking With Our Kids After Acts of Violence and Anti-Semitism 2018-11-02
  • Are You or a Family Member Ditching Dairy? CAUTION! Thurs Time Capsule 10/12 2018-11-01
  • Data and Resources on Sudden Unexpected Infant Death | Children’s Safety Network 2018-10-31
  • The 7 Best Parenting Books to Buy in 2018 2018-10-31
  • Decorative Contact Lenses: What Teens and Parents Need to Know 2018-10-30
  • Why I Celebrate My Son’s Autism On Halloween 2018-10-29
  • Why I Called Out My Daughter’s Cyberbully 2018-10-29
  • Uncommon Halloween Safety Tips 2018: What EMS Wants You to Know 2018-10-29

How to Care For Your Child if They Chip a Tooth

As parents, we do our best to care for our children when accidents or injuries occur. In dentistry, one of the most common dental emergencies that family and pediatric dentists see is chipped teeth.

By being prepared and knowing how to handle a chipped tooth, you can ensure your child is well looked after from the moment the injury occurs to when your family finally makes it to see your dentist.

Control Any Bleeding

The mouth bleeds easily and heavily, due to the many blood vessels supplying it. Apply pressure with a clean cloth or sterile gauze (a facial tissue works if you don’t have anything else on hand) to help stop any bleeding that’s occurring.

Look for the Tooth Fragment

If the damage to your child’s tooth is significant, your dentist may be able to bond the broken off portion back into place. The key is to find it quickly and store it properly, so that it doesn’t dry out. Place it in a sealed container and submerge it with milk, contact solution, or if nothing else is available, tap water.

Take note not to scrub the tooth fragment clean, especially if it’s a completely knocked out tooth. Doing so could make it harder for your dentist to put back in place.

See your dentist within the next hour if at all possible. The sooner you seek out care, the more conservative treatment will tend to be.

Baby vs. Permanent Teeth

How your dentist handles treating a chipped tooth will depend on if it’s a baby or adult tooth. Adult teeth need to be treated quickly to avoid permanent nerve damage or deterioration of the compromised enamel. However, baby teeth are typically handled on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the size of the chip, your dentist may only want to monitor the tooth to make sure it doesn’t start to die before it exfoliates (falls out) naturally on its own time. However, larger cracks and chips may require some type of filling or a crown.

Preserve Your Child’s Smile

The health of your child’s teeth plays a direct impact on the development of their adult smile, speech patterns, and even their self-esteem. If your child has chipped a tooth or suffered from a bump to the mouth, see your dentist for a quick exam and X-ray to determine the severity of the trauma.

For Daylight Savings: Check Smoke Alarms & Fire Safety Checklist

To quote our former EMS Safety Expert Greg Atwood in his post A Little Change & Prep Now, a Year of Safety for Your Family:

“when the clocks change, its time to change the batteries in all of your detectors in your home, whether they be smoke or gas detectors. A properly functioning detector is key in the safety of you and your family in early trouble detection from smoke, flames and harmful gases in your home day and night. So please do not put this off, it only takes a few minutes and can make all the difference in the world and while you are at it, maybe you can make a fun family fire drill out of testing your new batteries in your detectors”.


**Our thanks to the wonderful folks at Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide for providing us with this terrific Fire Safety Checklist


Talking With Our Kids After Acts of Violence and Anti-Semitism

The violence that the Tree of Life Synagogue experienced and the hatred that was behind it has been terrifying. It is heartbreaking and for many angering. We need healing–and so do our kids.

Many of us wonder how do we speak to our children about acts of terror when we cannot fully comprehend them ourselves. We are thrown by such unexpected and horrific violence. It makes sense that talking to our kids feels daunting. Truthfully, it is.

Yet, talking to our kids is essential. While we may wish to avoid talking about violence and anti-Semitism; sadly our children hear and learn about the through other sources. Terror, violence, bigotry are part of the world we live in and on the news frequently. By engaging our children we are ensuring that they do not have encounter these scary issues alone. We may wish to shield our children, but it is as important to prepare them and comfort them.

It is difficult to watch our children in pain or fear. While parents can’t make their children’s pain disappear, you can help to instill in children the ability to cope with loss and cultivate a sense of resilience. There are ways parents can engage their children in conversation, storytelling, prayer and ritual, which can be useful tools in supporting them. Ultimately, parents play an important role in offering safety and helping them make meaning and interpreting such a significant event.

Here are some suggestions to prepare you and support you in the challenge of responding to the tragedy at the Tree of Life synagogue with meaningful and comforting conversations with your children:

Check in with yourself

All of us are affected by this horrifying act. Before talking with your child make sure you are in a place to do so to offer yourself as a listener. If you need to talk with someone to process your emotions, please do so. It is ok to be emotional in the presence of your children, but make sure to the best of your ability that you are centered enough to be there for your child.

Be Present, Not Perfect

Perfection is not the goal, being present is. There are no perfect words. While it may seem like kids want answers, they also need to feel like they are being listened to. See what they already know. Children are perceptive. They may have heard directly about the tragedy from the news or from other children. But even if they have not, children are quite perceptive. They can sense when their parents are keenly attuned to watching television, checking their phone, having hushed conversations. This can create confusion and lead them to create some of their own conclusions. Be present to them can alleviate that.

Think about some prompts that can get them started. You can check in with them very generally about how they are feeling or about their day. Or you may want to ask them a questions like “You may have heard that something very sad happened, what have you heard?”

Establish that you are a person your children can speak to about their fears, their confusions, their feelings. Knowing that someone will listen creates comfort, but also do not force conversation. If they need take the conversation in small pieces.

Focus on Understanding

Prioritize your child’s feelings even if it feels self-focused. Depending on the age, children are often most concerned about the direct impact on them. While we want to support them to be caring and concerned members of the community, start where they are. Address their feelings, on their level. Knowing that they are safe is important and allows them to move on to concern for others and understanding more of what happened. Your willingness to listen to them models very important behavior for the long term.

Helping children develop a palette of feelings is important. Explore with them what they are feeling and how they feel it.

Start with Simplicity

Our children do not need to know everything right away. Limit how much exposure they have to news. Be discerning about what information they need. Give them as much information as they need and are able to process, both about this particular act of violence and also about the violent nature of anti-Semitism. Violence has lasting effects on children so be judicious; neither shelter them nor deluge them.

As a young child, I was exposed to too much violent information and images of the Holocaust and it was unhealthy and unproductive. We have much better ways of introducing our children to these topics. Start with the underlying values of dignity, respect, loving kindness. Share with them the reassuring responses of courage, concern and unity.

For very young children, use the most basic language and concepts. Follow their lead; no need to complicate things for them.

Assure and Equip Them

Violence and terror are so rattling because they are beyond our control. Hate crimes pack a double whammy because not only does it undermine our control, but we feel targeted for who we are.

Worried child in front of graffitiWith our children we need to both support them in acting on areas where they do have control of their own safety and feeling connected to who they are. Parenting experts recommend looking at the ways where young children can help protect themselves and pointing that out. In an article in Parents Magazine, “How to Talk to Kids About Terrorism” by Ellen Sturm Niz, there is great advice by Denise Daniels. “Daniels recommends talking to little kids about strategies they use for keeping themselves safe, like wearing a seatbelt in the car, wearing a helmet when riding a bike, and practicing fire drills. “Simple little things like that all help kids think, ‘Well, gosh, there are things I can do to keep myself safe.'”

Focusing on ways that children actually do have control in many areas of keeping themselves safe and understanding how you keep them safe is important.

Older kids can be encouraged to take their concern into action. Whether it is by raising money for the communities affected or educating others about bias and bigotry knowing they can take their worry and turn into impact is an important lesson. (It also applies to us; it is why I am writing this.)

Revisit the conversation

You can discuss this more than once. Information keeps coming in to our children from friends, snippets of conversations at school. Particularly, around issues like anti-Semitism, keeping the channels open, is important to support our kids in forming a positive identity and pride in who they are. They may also experience heightened awareness of who they are as a Jew and the vulnerability it causes. Your presence is invaluable in assuring their ability to claim their Jewishness as a vital part of who they are.

You can find children’s book for all ages on the ADL Website to help further the conversation on anti-Semitism. Similarly you can find resources to keep the discussion going at the PJ Library Website, too. And when the bombing in Paris occurred, I found this article in The Guardian had very useful book recommendations for children on terror, also note the suggestions they crowdsourced at the end.

Resilience is Spiritual, Not Just Practical

While my Jewish education about anti-Semitism and violence was heavy handed, it was balanced out by the importance of ritual and prayer. Understanding that your children have a spiritual is important.

For parents, it can feel incredibly challenging to understand the best ways to respond to the spiritual issues and questions that arise from kids. While there is a strong connection between the psychological aspects of fear and grief and the spiritual ones, many people feel particularly inadequate in providing what children need spiritually to navigate loss of this magnitude. Many children have an inherent way of seeing the world through a spiritual lens–with a sense of wonder, awe and a desire to seek.

How do you answer where is God in all of this? Again, it is fine and expected not to always have definitive answers, but to recognize that this is an opportunity to ask them them what they think. By all means, share with them your beliefs.

For me, this is an opportunity to talk about God being present when we create openings for God’s presence. God is in the healing and the comfort; in the grieving and in tears. We all have choices how much we want to connect to godliness and the more open we are, the more connected we are.

Rituals and prayers are containers for the unspeakable and important channels for our feelings. Saying kaddish, lighting candles, doing tzedakah can be important ways to move beyond just words of explanation. Also rituals of safekeeping, like the bedtime Shema or chanting prayers like “Hareni m’kabel alai…”, I take upon myself the mitzvah of loving my fellow human being as myself” upon waking create a consistency and sense of comfort and purpose.

Taking a child to a vigil or attending services are important ways for them to feel like they belong.

And this approach, I believe is a double healing in that it both offers meaningful solace and connects them deeply to being Jewish and a part of the Jewish community.

There is no life without loss: In conclusion, it compounds our heartbreak to see our children scared and in pain. While parents can’t make our children’s pain disappear after such violence, they can help to instill in children the ability to cope with loss and cultivate a sense of resilience. Helping children navigate terror and bias is extremely important because they are beginning to assimilate new information, which is confusing and fraught. The role of parents is to be companions with their kids on this challenging aspect of life, not to pretend it didn’t happen. This is the learning of a lifetime and we grow as we prepare and love our children through these unspeakable events.

May we find comfort and strength together.


Editor’s Note: Although Pediatric Safety is a secular publication, we felt these words of support and healing from Rabbi Joshua touched all of us. We were glad we could share them with you