I feel honored to be asked to write for Chocolate on my Cranium. Montserrat does much good with her blog. I never go away from reading her blog without feeling uplifted.
In the last General Conference, President Utchdorf gave a moving talk on welfare to the Priesthood. He said:
“The lesson we learn generation after generation is that rich and poor are all under the same sacred obligation to help their neighbor. It will take all of us working together to successfully apply the principles of welfare and self-reliance.”
I believe it is the same in the family. We are all required to serve and to give—the least to the greatest, the smallest child to the busiest teenager. Children and adults need the blessings that come from turning their hearts to their neighbors and helping those in need. So how do we teach our children to serve? And how can small children serve? This can be a challenge for parents. Small children are not allowed to serve in the community and often they are not invited to church service projects. Parents need to be creative in order to provide their children with an attitude of love and service. I chose this topic particularly because I thought it would be good to research some service ideas for my own family. I am going to include some things we are already doing as a family and some things I would like us to start doing as a family.
First, Service begins in the home. If we teach our children to serve one another and their parents, then service will become a part of who they are. Here are a few ideas for service within the family unit:
• Hold family home evenings about loving and serving one another. Then draw names and have each member plan to do one act of service for the person whose names they got each day for the week. This gives parents a great opportunity to give their children little service ideas.
• Include children in yard work and home projects. Younger children can help rake leaves and bag leaves. They can hand you tools when you are fixing things. Ask older children to rake the leaves and to weed the garden. Explain that doing these things makes a nice home and helps everyone in the family to feel happy. Ask younger children to help with baking and cooking for the family. Ask older children to cook a meal or to make a Sunday afternoon treat.
• Have older children help the younger children clean their bedrooms and do their chores. Let the older children know that when they do this, they are helping the younger children learn how to take care of themselves. This helps the older children understand the important principle of teaching self-reliance.
• Older children can read to younger children or help younger children learn to read.
• Younger children can draw pictures for their parents, siblings, and grandparents.
• Younger children can put away their older siblings backpacks and shoes.
• Teach younger and older children that when they use kind words and forgive, they are serving the family.
Second, service needs to extend to our extended family, our neighbors, our community, and throughout the world. Here are a few ideas for service outside the family unit.
• Have your family write letters to missionaries.
• When you are shopping make a habit of saying kind things to the Clerks and other people around you. Have small children do this to. It can really brighten someone’s day.
• Make extra dessert when you bake and have your children bring it to the neighbors.
• Have an older child mow the neighbor’s front lawn when they mow yours (that is easy in our neighborhood because our lawns are very small.).
• Spend a family home evening bringing snacks to grandparents or neighbors.
• Weed Grandma’s flower beds.
• When it snows, take your children out early to shovel the driveways of the elderly and single parents in your neighborhood.
• Have older daughters babysit for free for couples with young children, so they can attend the Temple together or go on a much needed date.
• Have your children help make and bring dinners to neighbors and family who are sick or who have just welcomed a new baby.
• Have the children in charge of cleaning the home and making dinner while you attend the Temple or help at the local cannery.
• Contact your local food bank and find out how old children need to be to help serve, then take your older children with you to serve.
• Put together hygiene kits for family home evening. 1 and 2 year old children can easily stuff the bags.
• Make setting aside a portion of their money to give to fast offerings or humanitarian aid as normal as tithing and savings and mission funds.
• Have children tie quilts to give to hospitals, shelters, or the church for humanitarian aid, anyone who is old enough to tie a knot can do this.
With big projects, it works best for me to choose a service project, schedule a day to do it, and then have everything prepared before I gather the family. This is good for big service projects for the family. But with all of the planning something like this does not happen very often. To assure that we are actually serving outside our family on a regular basis, there are some simple things I do. When I make cookies or bake bread, I often have the children help make them and then send them over to a neighbor with some. This is simple and something we can do often. In public my husband is always asking the check-out clerks how they are doing. I am trying to extend this example to myself and my children. My oldest daughter never takes full pay when she babysits, and never takes any pay when she babysits for anything church related. I read about a family that writes letters to missionaries every Sunday. They even contact Mission Presidents when they need new missionaries to write to, and often get more names than they need. I know a few children who regularly sit and talk to single sisters during church.
I think that doing both big projects on occasion and small things regularly can really help our children with all of the challenges they face. And when we serve regularly we truly provide our children with an attitude of love and service. I am going to close with another quote from Elder Utchdorf’s amazing talk.
Diane is the mother of eight adorable children. She blogs at The More the Merrier, where this week it is all about faith.