Thanks to the folks at Telus I had the opportunity to attend this year’s We Day in Toronto. Although the event is designed to empower youth with the courage and motivation to be change makers, I discovered some key lessons beneficial to parents.
In our school all kids go through gifted testing in grade five. When my son was selected and my oldest daughter wasn’t I remember having to explain that not being invited into the program wasn’t a sign that she wasn’t bright. These tests are looking for a very specific type of person, a type that determines solutions a certain way. As a society we have this stigma that gifted just means those really bright individuals that perform at a high standard in a certain field.
It’s time to rethink our definition of gifted. Instead of putting our kids into groups, the gifted and the rest, we need to realize all children are gifted with talents.
Your child may not be the smartest but perhaps he has the ability to grab the attention of others. Your daughter may not be the fastest but maybe her determination ensures she finishes what she started. These traits make our children who they are and gifted in their own way. Our kids need to see us embrace these gifts so they will intern embrace them and who they are.
LITTLE PEOPLE ARE CAPABLE OF BIG THINGS
One of the reasons I as a parent love Free the Children and the We Day event is because they remind young people that they have a voice worth hearing. It can be hard to watch our kids take risks, doing things that no one else in their peer group is doing. I think all parents want their kids to fit in. We want to protect them from failure and hurt. I know I do. My heart aches most when my own child is upset.
But I know that hurt and failure are part of the journey. Some mistakes my kids have to make first hand. We are there to guide our children. Some days it feels as though we’ve fallen down our child’s importance scale, replaced by friends and teachers, but we can still influence their actions. That’s why it’s important to not dismiss your son or daughter’s big ideas and desires to do something different, to change the world.
Even Craig Kielburger c0-founded Free the Children when he was twelve and during We Day we were introduced to other kids even younger who were doing their part to make change happen. Age and size have nothing to do with making an impact for the good. If we believe this then our children will believe and great things are bound to happen.
Telus has even introduced an app, We365, that makes it easier for kids to connect with like minded youth, challenge their community, and even record their volunteer time. Available for Android and iOS devices.
HELPING OTHERS STARTS WITH SELF LOVE
Adolescents can be a tough stage. Even my oldest daughter, who maintains good grades in school and is well liked, has had some rough bouts with the pre-teen years. The fact that so many pre-teens and teens struggle with these feelings makes it easier for them to relate to one another but ultimately a child needs to believe in him or herself. They need to understand that they have value and a voice worth hearing. It’s only from understanding our own self-worth that we can see the value in fighting to change the perception of others. We need to remind our kids, show them love, provide them with a safe and secure environment so they can prepare to take on the world in their own way and in their own time.
This also extends to ourselves as parents and role models. We live by example, not criticizing ourselves when we try and fail or making disparaging remarks about our own appearance. It’s hard for our kids to fully embrace self love if they don’t see it in their own parents.
NO ACT OF KINDNESS IS TOO SMALL
When my oldest came home from attending We Day with her school’s charity group you could hear the excitement and awe as she filled me in on the day’s events. But when talking about next steps, how she would apply this inspiration into her own life, her tone changed. Many of the stories highlighted were big, like a school raising enough money to build multiple schools in Africa or creating an app to help those with impaired sight.
“What can my school bake sale accomplish?”
Free the Children isn’t all about helping those in developing countries. Okay, it is and it isn’t. A big corner stone of Free the Children is their Adopt a Village program using fundraising, Me to We product sales, and volunteer trips but the message is more. Sharing the big stories helps to illustrate that even young kids can make a big impact. That’s important. Little acts are just as important. Even if running a school program only raises one hundred dollars, that’s one hundred dollars that can help a person. Beyond fundraising, We Day should inspire a change in attitude. Speak-up for what you believe in. Stand up against someone being bullied. Hold the door for a person struggling with a stroller or packages. Talk to a classmate who seems isolated.
I love Drew Dudly’s TEDTalks about leadership. It’s an amazing example that something seemingly ordinary to you can have a profound impact on another. That’s the inspiration kids should walk away with and what we should encourage.
A world of kids full of self-confidence, taking initiative, expressing kindness, helping others, that’s a world that benefits everyone.