Here’s how I’ll teach my kids about kindness this year.

Illustration: Amy Aves Challenger (author)

don’t think kindness is something that you just learn one day. It has to be planted. Kindness emerges and blossoms like a seed, a heart, and then it gets stronger every year. It comes from the grandmother who let you watch TV late with her while eating Doritos. Or it arrives in the teacher who showed you how to make a own fairytale right there in your mind when your parents weren’t getting along. It begins in the person who made you tacos when you were feeling down or in the friend who spent extra time listening to you ramble after you lost a job or boyfriend.

Even on the days when you feel no kindness such as in a pandemic, these seedlings of that good stuff manage to grow. They filter upward somehow through the weeds of your life. They break through the bitterness you’ve acquired, in the strangest places.

Sometimes I find kindness in dark place like crowded grocery stores aisles when somebody gives me the last package of pasta or in parking lots, where somebody forgives me for bumping their door. But when I can’t find kindness anywhere in myself, I at least need to seek it for my kids. Here are places I can look:

Find kindness in the news.

Jill Biden posted giant heart messages all over the lawn of the White House with statements like “healing, kindness, compassion, love”. That’s quite a change from the imagery we’ve been seeing in D.C. lately.

In Boston Commons, blankets, masks and kind messages were left by Sophia’s Angels today just to cheer up homeless people.

230 kind youth are actively responding to the pandemic or helping with wildlife management for Americorps this month.

After winning a car, 17-year-old Hale Bridges of Appleton, Wisconsin, gave the car to her friend so she could more easily get to work at her Chic-fil-A job.

Look for exceptionally compassionate kids on social media. Remember to retweet them or share their stories.

Today a young girl Deniz Çevikus who lives in Turkey Tweeted about her 99th week on school climate strike. Greta Thunberg Tweeted her 130th week. Here’s the petition to sign.

This 14-year-old activist Rebekah Bruesehoff collects books with LGBTQ characters and donates them to libraries.

Did you know that Bellen Woodward, a 14-year-old, is a crayon activist? She created her own multicultural crayon called “more than peach.”

Watch movies about unusual kids like:

Imba Means Sing a story of three kids from the Ugandan slums who get to tour the world and find their dreams.

Wonder, a story about Auggie a boy with facial differences and how he becomes a fifth grade hero.

Kindness Matters about Lincoln a boy who is bullied for how he talks. So he creates superheroes in his head.

Do nice stuff at home

Make a kindness jar for your house. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but let the kids put the kind stuff they’ve seen or perhaps done inside the jar. Once it’s full, give the family a prize like a ridiculous amount of that junk food you’re never kind enough to give them.

Find out what people with less actually need. Then search for it. This is fun. Don’t just drop your leftovers at a homeless shelter or refugee camp. These places don’t have the time or space to store and sort. Find out who actually needs stuff by making phone calls or sending emails. Let your kids help collect, organize, listen, and learn about those with less. Organize and deliver.

Send cards to people you keep forgetting. This one is fun and easy. Write messages to lots of those people you might have forgotten to be kind to. They’ll be glad.

Be kind to your kids, your partner, and especially yourself.

At the end of the day, how you treat yourself will be most memorable. Practice being okay with who you are, with your mistakes, and with whom your kids are becoming. What can you remind them they did well? Did your son wake on time for school? Did your daughter not complain when you were late? Did your kids simply get through the week in a pandemic? Name the good news. The more your kids hear and see hope emerge from you, the more beautiful their world will become. American writer living in Switzerland. Contributor @Independent @WaPost, @Huffpost, @International Living , @Euronews & more

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