It cannot be denied that the issue of hunger in the U.S. is as alarming as it is dire. According to the USDA, 50 million Americans are living in food insecure households, including more than 16 million children. And with statistics like these, it is essential that families across the U.S. address this issue as a whole.
Not having access to regular meals can impair everything from a child’s development to their ability to pay attention in school. The American Psychological Association states that poverty has a particularly adverse effect on the academic outcomes of children, especially during early childhood. As parents, it is our job to not only help our children, but rally our entire family unit to help those in need.
When children are as young as four and five years of age, we can begin to introduce complex issues such as hunger in our communities to shape their desire to help others and have compassion for their peers. Around six or seven years of age is the optimal time to get them involved in community outreach. There are a few things that you can do as a parent to ensure you are effectively communicating important issues like these to your child:
Start the Conversation
Pick an issue like hunger in your community and explain it to your child using tangible examples in your neighborhood and language that will make the issue real for them. Stress how hunger impacts children just like them and how it could affect some of their close friends. Support and encourage any and all conversation around the issue and be sure to answer any questions your child may have.
There are so many ways to get involved in community issues, especially those that involve hunger relief. The first step in the process would be to find a place near you that is involved in hunger relief efforts and volunteer. You can also support a food bank near you by voting for it to be one of 100 that will receive part of a $3 million grant from Walmart. This is a great opportunity to be a role model for your child and show them the compassion and dedication you hope for them to display in the world.
Stick With It
Once you’ve found an issue your child feels passionately about, keep the momentum going. Find new, fun and creative ways for them to get involved and encourage them to take charge by getting other classmates and peers involved. Giving them a significant role to play will help keep them engaged and motivated.
So often we do not involve our children in important issues like these because we feel they will not fully comprehend them. On the contrary, getting your children involved in issues like hunger and working with them will not only teach them the importance of community involvement, but also the necessity of having compassion for others. As parents, we are leaders and our children look to us to set the example for how to interact in the world. By showing your own enthusiasm and compassion, you will send your child a positive message about helping those in need.
Michele Borba is an internationally recognized expert and author on children, teens, parenting, bullying and moral development. Her work aims to help strengthen children’s character and resilience, build strong families, create compassionate and just school cultures, and reduce peer cruelty.