Parents: Lead by example, give back with holiday cards

If children could be born with a warning label, it would read, “Warning: I will do what you do, not what you say.”

Our kids are tiny little mirrors, reflecting back to us our worst vices and our greatest virtues. They are mini-mes, deaf to our pleading, exhorting, extorting, threatening and promising words, but constantly and microscopically tuned into our every move. Lecture all you want. Bribe and cajole and tell stories about when you were their age, how you had to walk barefoot through the snow uphill to and from school 12 months a year. Some of that may get through their earbuds and past that little voice that interprets your words as, “blah-blah-blah.” But not much.

Remember how Charlie Brown heard his teachers in school? Every lesson sounded like a plaintive trumpet playing, wah, wah, wah. That’s how your kids hear you.

Now try this: do a favor for a neighbor. Be kind to a stranger in need. Volunteer at the soup kitchen or a shelter. Take in a foster child who needs respite care. Volunteer. Give back. Writing a check to a charity is good and important and makes a difference. Good. Don’t stop. But writing a check is a very quiet act. It’s not something that’s likely to draw your daughter’s attention away from her phone and her friends.

If you want your children to learn giving, you have to practice what you preach. They have to see you giving. Better still, they have to be involved.

My recommendation? Celebrate Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa right now. In July.

“Holiday Cards 4 Our Military-NH Challenge” is a New Hampshire

nonprofit dedicated to expressing gratitude and sharing joy with our men and women in uniform. In 2017, the “Challenge” collected 17,000 holiday greeting cards from across the state and delivered them – more than 500 pounds of glitter and crayon and heartfelt messages of thanks and good cheer- to sailors aboard the seven ships in one particular aircraft carrier group deployed in a war zone.

The sailors’ responses were astonishing. A simple pencil drawing from a second-grader brought tears to the eyes of a 250-pound airman and helped give his work meaning. A poem about thanks written by a high school student was posted in a ship’s cafeteria for all to read. One seaman who has since returned from duty produced a battered and dog-eared card from his wallet where he’d carried it every day since receiving it seven thousand miles and seven months ago.

This year, the Challenge hopes to send 5,000 cards to our deployed warriors in each of the five branches of the military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines). That’s 25,000 individual expressions of caring and gratitude intended for 25,000 men and women who are actively risking their lives for you and I. Gov. Sununu is on board. Sens. Jeanne Shaeen and Maggie Hassan are on board. So too, are Congresswomen Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter. The New Hampshire Department of Education will be sponsoring the challenge in schools across the state in the fall and many private secular organizations are following suit. They are all practicing what they preach: Giving back helps. We can show others that we care.

You can, too. The Challenge is the perfect way to model giving back and caring, generosity and compassion, patriotism and gratitude to your kids. Its no-cost or very low-cost for a tremendous return. Here’s what to do:

n For the remainder of July, the ticket to dinner is completion of one holiday card. Set out the crayons and the paints and make cards with younger and more artistic kids, bring home a dozen blank cards from the Dollar Store, or pick up blank cards to fill out and return from any of the Challenge sponsor sites (read more below).

n The message is simple: Write “Dear Warrior” and a sentence or two of hope and caring and gratitude.

n Please don’t seal the envelopes.

n At the end of the month (and certainly before the deadline of Oct. 30, 2018) deliver your completed Challenge holiday cards to one of the many state-wide drop-off sites, including:

Drop-off sites include:

The Hollis Pharmacy

Wild Salamander Art Center

Martha’s Exchange

Fulchino Winery

n Questions? Reach the Challenge creator, organizer and CEO Laura Landerman-Garber (yes, I am proud to be her husband) at Holiday

CardsNH@gmail.com.

– Want to do more? If you’d like to coordinate the Challenge in your area, through your agency, workplace, place or worship, scout troop or club, reach out to HolidayCardsNH@gmail.com.

Parenting Pointer

Holiday Cards 4 Our Military-NH is only one way to model caring to your kids. If we want our children and their children to grow into compassionate adults who might someday enjoy a world at peace, the giving has to start today. Make doing for others into an everyday activity, not a once-a-year obligation.

Here are some other worthy causes that you and your kids might adopt as your own:

– The High Hopes Foundation

www.highhopesfoundation.org

– The Plus Company

pluscompany.org

– Catholic Charities Immigration Services

www.cc-nh.org/programs/immigration/

(Learn more about giving back in New Hampshire in this guide to New Hampshire nonprofits: www.doj.nh.gov/charitable-trusts/documents/guidebook-non-profit-organizations.pdf)

Dr. Benjamin Garber, Ph.D., is a New Hampshire-licensed psychologist and parenting coordinator. He writes and speaks internationally on subjects concerning child and family development. His latest book is “Holding Tight/Letting Go” available from unhookedbooks.com. Learn more about Garber and his child-centered services at HealthyParent.com. Find a collection of Garber’s popular press articles on his blog at bdgarberphd.wordpress.com. Garber welcomes your comments at papaben@healthyparent.com.