Sticky fingers. Stick hands. Sticky faces. Sticky feet. Children are always perpetually sticky. Something I never understood when I used to watch kids play or hang around them.
I always avoided babysitting, avoided holding babies and rarely could tolerate screaming babies.
I was never fond of children until my sister had twins (Angel and Xander, 8). Later on, she had two more children (William, 7 and Wesley, 18 months) and I have a fond place in my heart for the four boys.
Children are our future and sometimes the most intuitive beings you can meet. Here are some ways that I have learned and experienced how you can make a difference in a child’s life.
1. Spend time with them.
All children want to do is just spend time with them. Honestly, children don’t need to be taken to amusement parks or baseball games or expensive outings, just spending quality time with them is a HUGE impact. Whenever I come home, I always make a point to at least play with the boys, provided I don’t tease them too much.
2. Listen to their thoughts and ideas.
Children have important things to say. While sometimes it’s nonsense and babble, children can say the most amazing things ever. Children need to feel validated and recognized. Not only are children intuitive and very perceptive, they sometimes say the darndest things.
The worse thing is when a child is not heard. I was quite a chatterbox when I was little, but sometimes I had important things to say and nobody would listen because I always talked so much. Ensure you listen to them.
3. Play along with their ideas, indulge in their fantasies.
You should never question children’s methods of playing, unless it exhibits dangerous or inappropriate behaviors. Playing, pretending and fantasizing is imperative to their development, shaping their imagination, helping form dexterity, and increase physical and emotional strength. Put on that crazy princess hat and have a tea party, get in the cardboard box that will transport you to a new world, play restaurant with the children.
4. Teach them the concept of sharing.
One thing is that children learn from adults, so why not instill sharing into them at an early age (or any age). Share stories with them, share food, share books, share whatever comes to mind. Teaching this important skill will not only help them at an early age, but for the rest of their life. Nobody likes a person who won’t share their toys as an adult.
5. Support them in their endeavors and interests.
Children show interests in activities at a young age. If your child has great athletic acumen, enroll them in a sports team. If the child displays musical talent, have them take lessons or teach them yourself. If the child is the next Picaso, buy them an art set. Let the child flourish in whatever talents they display.
6. Expose your child to multiple disciplines.
On a related note to the step above, if you don’t know what your child is interested in, showcase multiple areas that might interest them. My mother enrolled us in dance (ballet for me, gymnastics for my sister), piano, soccer, theatre, swimming and other things. While my mom required us to do three years of piano (my mom is very musical), she never forced us to do anything we didn’t want.
And I realize that parents or caretakers might not have the ability to expose children due to finances, but look around at local community centers for free classes. See if any neighbors would be willing to teach music lessons. Tap into your network and see if you can expose children that way.
7. Volunteer with the child.
As you all know, I’m a huge advocate for volunteerism and helping out the fellow man. Not only can you become a mentor to a child, you can have them volunteer with you. There are multiple service projects that suit children, whatever age. Volunteerism teaches children responsibility, builds leadership and character skills, broadens their understanding of the world and teaches them altruism.
8. Show the child love.
It doesn’t matter how you show it, through gifts, affirmation or anything, let the child know that they are loved. I like to give my nephews kisses and hugs. Even when they’re 6’2 and tower over their “Aunt Chell,” I’ll still kiss them.
9. Dance with them.
Yes, do not ask questions. Shake your booty.
10. If you do not like children, donate to an organization that helps children or support efforts in helping children.
There are MILLIONS of non-profits geared towards children.
Children can be annoying and sticky, but they sure are fun in small (or large) doses. If you love children, then all the more power to you, keep making an awesome difference their life. And you don’t have to be a parent, aunt, uncle or anything to make a difference in a child’s life. Any of these reasons can be done even if you aren’t related. I know the next time I go home to visit the boys, I’m going to give them lots of kisses.
Left to right: Xander, Wesley in my arms, William and Angel. Thanksgiving 2012. This was as good as it got to get them "smiling" Having four boys smile and look in the same direction is no easy feat.