Family Matters #7: Learning to care is part of healthy development

By Lucia Ferrara

Have you ever been the recipient of an expected act of kindness, or perhaps observed one? Someone helps you pick up your groceries that tumbled from a broken bag or a stranger holds the door open for a mother struggling with a stroller, diaper bag and a toddler in tow. These tiny actions make you feel good, gives you a boost.

That little burst of energy you feel in these situations is why the Search Institute lists “caring” as one of its 40 development assets that are the building blocks of healthy development in young children.

Young people should place high value on helping other people. Showing care and concern for your friends, family, and neighbors is as easy as offering a helping hand. There are many ways we can teach our children to care for others. Good intentions are followed with great actions. According to the Search Institute there are two types of ways people can help and care for others:  direct care and indirect care.

All the articles in the Family Matters series are available here.

Direct care is spending time and interacting with people who need care. Like cooking a simple meal for someone who can’t because they just had surgery. An example of Indirect care is when you collect food, money or other items to give to people who need them. All those experiences and relationships help the youth to grow up to be caring, responsible and healthy adults.

According to the Search Institute surveys, 50 percent of our youth, ages 11-18, say that they place a high value on helping others. This in turn promotes a positive behavior in our children no matter how old they are.

Some examples of helping others can be as simple as picking up a few extra groceries for an elderly neighbor or church shut-in. Even sharing a smile with someone may brighten their day. There are so many ways to show others you care. As parents, we can be great examples to our youth about building the asset of caring. Showing kindness with a smile or simply asking them how their day is going. This also tells them you are concerned about their well being.

Some examples I tried to share with my children is one with our dear elderly neighbor who can’t shovel her driveway when it snows. My two boys will shovel her driveway with no questions asked and do not accept any payment from her. She in turn enjoys buying them chocolate or ice cream from time to time as an appreciation of their service.

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As parents, we need to our children that the purpose in caring is to encourage and bless others by serving them, and that service can be extend outside our closest social circle to include acquaintances, classmates and — when appropriate — people we meet in public, like at the bus stop or grocery store.

This attitude can also be extended to our animals and caring for our environment. Volunteering at your local pet shelter or food pantry is another way to show empathy to all God’s creations. I have volunteered with my children at the Harvesters Food Pantry to help those who lack food supplies. This has been a team effort as a family and has enriched our relationship with each other.

A caring attitude also extends to our environment ...
... and our animals.

There are so many unique and exciting ways to show you care whether it is with a friend, neighbor, family, church and even your state and our country in general. I leave you with the following tips and reflections for building positive values such as caring.

1. Reflect on a time you showed concern for those around you and share that experience with your children.

2. Check in on a friend by stopping by or texting them and asking how you can pray for them, then follow up by asking if they have seen an answer.

3. Think about how to organize or facilitate a reading group where middle and high school students can spend an hour or two interacting or reading with elementary schoolchildren.

Until next time.

[Lucia Ferrara, the Director of Hospitality at Precious Blood Renewal Center and the lead organizer here of Parent Cafes. Share your thoughts with Lucia or ask her questions at Read more about the Parent Café here.]

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