It’s easy to teach your children how to add numbers or make a bed but how do you teach them to be a kind person? Teaching your child to have character and to care about others is not a process that comes with instructions — it comes from a lifetime of modeling behaviors and reinforcing his positive actions. Often the most defining moments are those that involve performing acts of kindness together, helping to cement those lessons and bring you and your child closer.
National Good Neighbor Day is the fourth Sunday of every September, falling this year on September 28th. It was designated a holiday under President Jimmy Carter in 1978; his work with Habitat for Humanity is an excellent example of how to be a good neighbor. If your children are over 16, signing up to help with one of your local Habitat projects could be an excellent way to celebrate the day but there are simple things you can do much closer to home.
When I grew up on Westgate Way in Portland, Oregon I knew the name of everyone on our street. Today, that’s not always the case. Why not approach Good Neighbor Day as a chance to meet some neighbor’s and spread a little cheer right where you live? I’m not suggesting you set your children free to go ring stranger’s doorbells, but here are some ideas for simple community-oriented activities you and your children can do together. Make this fun for both of you!
- Make personal notes for your neighbors! Try to say something that shows appreciation for them as individuals. If your child sees them walk their dog maybe let them draw a picture of their dog on the note, or if they put up seasonal wreathes compliment them on the holiday cheer they spread.
- Bake something and leave it on their front door with a simple note thanking them for being a good neighbor with your family’s surname. Be sure you bake and wrap the goodies together, your child will only take pride in something she helped create.
- Perform an act of service together. Do you see an elderly neighbor struggling to mow the lawn or trim some hedges? Ring the doorbell, tell them it’s Good Neighbor Day and ask if it’s OK for your family to help them. You don’t want to presume without permission — show your child how to be respectful as well as helpful.
- If you live in a neighborhood with common areas like a park or sidewalks, go out as a family to clean up a shared spot. Post a sign when you’re done wishing everyone a happy Good Neighbor Day. You don’t even have to sign it, model for your child that you don’t always need to get credit.
- It’s Fall so rake up some leaves! Not only is that helpful but isn’t that just the perfect way to spend an hour on a crisp Fall afternoon? Treat your family and your neighborss too with some hot apple cider afterwards.
Be a good neighbor everyday but make a special effort this year on September 28th. Be safe as well — I recommend using just a surname or no name when going together to people’s homes; keep the safety of your own child in mind while you’re spreading good cheer. But do spread that cheer! Teach your child the joy of giving from the heart right where you live!