When it comes to tackling a giant challenge—say, showing kids across the country that it’s cool to be kind and that good character brings benefits in droves—words of support are HUGE. They’re the fuel to your engine, what you reach for when you need a hand to get back up. But even bigger than words are actions of assistance.
I am so incredibly grateful for the several amazing teachers from Park Middle School in Scotch Plains who have rolled up their sleeves. This awesome crew of five includes some of the key people who helped me launch Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation almost a year ago and who are still hanging in there with me today!
In addition to their passion and volunteerism, the insight they’ve delivered about very real issues that our children face in schools today has been priceless to me and Wear the Cape’s mission.
I’ve found proof in the pudding. Thank you, my friends.
I am so psyched and proud to introduce you to one of my dearest friends on this planet Maureen “Mo” Chamberlain. Mo and I went to college together, and we’ve loyally supported one another through thick and thin ever since. Check out the pic: Mo Mo is the pretty bride who hasn’t changed a bit – no kidding. And even though I’m jealous that she still looks like she’s 25, I love her with all my heart! Fast forward 18 years, and Mo is now a dedicated 7th grade-reading specialist in Weymouth, Massachusetts where she teaches at Chapman Middle School.
Do you remember when you were growing up and you found out about an event or party that you were excluded from? I am sure it might have hurt you when you realized you were passed up, but it probably got easier with time…without immortalizing pictures. Our kiddos today are dealing with a lot of rejection on a daily basis, and so much of it is posted instantly while it is happening in REAL-TIME. Suddenly, the haves and have-nots are born based on what has been posted, all during a time in life when coping skills that best support our psyche have not been fully developed.
In this guest blog, I have invited my “bestie” Maureen to share some suggested guiding principles for our readers to support kids with the social media challenges they face.
With gratitude to Mo and to all of the everyday heroes who support and inspire us to do more!
INSTAGRAM: BE AWARE AND BEWARE, PARENTS
by 7th Grade Teacher Maureen Chamberlain
Many things have changed since I grew up in the 70’s. Back in my day, the only way to communicate with friends other than speaking in-person was by calling their families’ house phones or writing notes.
Instagram is supposed to be a fun way to communicate with friends, providing a platform to share photo moments and express oneself without words. Sometimes, however, words are not needed to leave kids feeling left out, depressed, and alone. Having two teens myself, I’ve learned a few things about Instagram that I believe parents should know. I’ve also included etiquette tips below that you can share with your kids.
FEELINGS OF INADEQUACY – “DO I MEASURE UP?”
Instagram, unfortunately, has evolved into somewhat of a popularity contest. What does this mean? Your child may feel inadequate if he or she does not get enough “likes” on pictures posted. In fact, kids monitor how many likes they get in the first hour of posting, and if the picture isn’t getting the “rapid-fire” response they want, they may delete the photo. It can be a blow to their egos and make insecurities rise to the surface.
Social media can cause kids (and, frankly, adults) to feel like their lives aren’t as wonderful as everyone else’s. People often question their own happiness when they log on to Instagram or Facebook. Fabulous pictures and status updates can make us wonder why others’ lives seem much more fun, fancy and interesting. If someone is unhappy or insecure, seemingly perfect photos can exacerbate the issues.
When teens post pics of themselves at a party, it often leaves others feeling like they’re on the outside looking in (even in the cases of a quick trip to the mall or a sporting event with just a few friends). There’s usually someone viewing the Instagram newsfeed who wonders why he or she was not included. Back in the 70’s and 80’s growing up, I wasn’t invited to certain things as a teenager, and I remember the feeling: It hurts. But I didn’t have to stare at the pictures, often times while the event is still going on, to make me feel even worse.
TIPS FOR PARENTS:
Tell young people that their self-worth should not be directly related to the number of likes they get. They need to find their own inner confidence and realize they don’t need over 20, 50 or 100 likes to convince them they’re awesome or beautiful.
Say, “Don’t post a picture so people will like it. Post it because YOU like it.”
Remind your children that most people only post positive images of their lives. Nobody has a perfect life. Most of us don’t air our dirty laundry and tell the world about all the lows we experience; instead just the highs in life are amplified. Talk to kids about how they shouldn’t compare their lives to the “highlight shots” of others. Nothing good can come from comparing.
Talk to your kids about the appropriate use of photo sharing. Explain that perception is half of reality.
PLEASE, repeat yourself again and again about how once a photo is posted, it’s out there forever. It can’t be taken back.
Discuss photos someone else has taken with a phone – or that have been sent to someone else’s phone. Your child no longer has control over the image if it’s in another person’s digital possession.
Conversely, suggest your child ask permission from all included in a photo before posting it.
Finally, encourage that your kids keep their comments positive so Instagram is a place to connect with people in a constructive way. It’s easy to find something nice to say about someone’s picture.
As a parent, I can confidently say that the best way to monitor what’s happening on Instagram is to open an account yourself. Follow your child and his/her friends. Most kids don’t mind. It gives the child one more coveted follower and, of course, more potential “likes”. I guess we’ve gone full circle on this.
Good luck and hope this helps! Maureen in support of Wear the Cape/kidkind foundation
Top 10 Reasons to Encourage Your Kids to Volunteer
Wear the Cape’s resident expert on character education sheds light on the value of urging children to become involved in community service activities
Wear the Cape, a brand that gives back and aims to restore the power of kindness and good character with cool, inspirational products and its non-profit the kidkind foundation, today released the “Top 10 Reasons to Encourage Your Kids to Volunteer.” Authored by the organization’s resident expert on character education, Philip Brown, PhD, the Top 10 List shares with parents research-based reasons to urge their children to make time to serve others.
“Back-to-school season ushers in a renewed focus on everything from academics to athletics, but many parents are challenged to find positive ways for their kids to spend time when they’re not on campus,” commented Dr. Brown, who is a senior consultant at the National School Climate Center. “While over-programming your child’s schedule isn’t a healthy option—kids of all ages need free time to play—you should help with structuring some of his or her time to optimize maturation.”
Dr. Brown explained, “As young people get older, they need to stretch their abilities, including their moral sensibilities. Engagement with other kids and adults in meaningful service activities can support healthy development in a variety of ways, providing opportunities for both growth and positive fulfillment.”
TOP 10 REASONS TO ENCOURAGE YOUR KIDS TO VOLUNTEER
#1: Volunteering helps foster empathy.
Empathy is the most critical disposition for responding to the needs of others. We need to be able to imagine what other people may be going through or feeling. Volunteering helps engage our natural empathic sense, but you have to make sure that there are opportunities to talk about the purpose and experience of any volunteer activity if the recipients aren’t visible in the process (making sandwiches for the homeless isn’t the same as helping to deliver the sandwiches to homeless people).
#2: Volunteering helps develop a sense of self-efficacy.
Children may understand that other people need help or that there are projects that could make a community more habitable or productive, but feel helpless or unclear that an individual can do anything about it in response. Volunteering can provide experiences that affirm a young person’s sense that they can make a difference through their own effort and skills. These experiences can empower young people to apply themselves in other contexts, including school and other organized activities, such as faith-based youth groups or scouting.
#3: Volunteers gain experience working with other people.
Social skills are best learned in social situations. When people come together to engage in a meaningful task, issues of communication, power, collaboration and trust rise to the surface in a supportive context. It’s easier, although still a challenge, to learn to navigate these waters with others who may be more skillful and be in a position to offer supportive feedback. It’s a good way for parents and children to see each other in a different light, as well, and learn together.
#4: Volunteering develops new skills.
In addition to social skills, practical experiences of organizing tasks and using physical and mental capabilities to get jobs done is fundamental to successful work of any kind. In school, these skills are often fragmented or unrelated to real-world applications. Service activities offer the chance to apply and test our abilities, as well as learn from other kids or adults in a way that engages kids’ natural drive for competence.
# 5: Volunteering provides the opportunity to explore new interests and develop new passions.
There is nothing more exhilarating than discovering a new field of interest that sparks a real passion for learning and doing. One of the wonderful things about being our species is our inquisitiveness and motivation to investigate and find meaning in discovery. Service activities have the potential to expose us to these opportunities and see how other people live their passions.
#6: Volunteers learn a lot.
In the process of joining with others in service, volunteers learn about their community and the larger world. It takes us out of our own sphere of self-interest and self-absorption and opens us to issues and solutions, as well as other people’s needs.
#7: Volunteers actually make a difference in other people’s lives.
Think about how much more impoverished our communities would be if all of the volunteer services disappeared. This is a lesson that children can be taught early and take with them into adulthood. For example, volunteers are critical in:
Helping families (daycare and eldercare)
Improving schools (tutoring, literacy)
Supporting youth (mentoring and after-school programs)
Beautifying the community (beach and park cleanups)
#8:Volunteering encourages civic responsibility.
Community service and volunteerism are a way to teach the importance of investing in our community and the people who live in it. We want our kids to not only be successful in their work and personal lives, but to learn what it means to be a citizen in our republic. The American values of democratic decision-making, social justice and equal opportunity require active participation for us to have a successfully functioning country.
#9: Volunteering offers you a chance to give back.
It’s important for children to see that there are small and large opportunities to support community resources that your family uses or that benefit people they care about. Whether it’s offering to help man a booth to support improvements in a park you use, or joining a fundraising walk to support medical research for a disease that afflicts a family member or friend, children and adults alike can feel empowered through participation.
#10: Volunteering is good for you.
While this is the last reason for volunteering on this list, and may not be the most important, it is good to know that research has consistently shown that acting altruistically has real benefits. Volunteering provides physical and mental rewards; it has been shown to:
Reduce stress: When you focus on someone other than yourself, it interrupts tension-producing patterns.
Make you healthier: The moods and emotions that frequently come through volunteer service like optimism, joy, and a sense of self-efficacy can contribute to strengthening the immune system.
Make you happier: Human beings are social animals. Working closely with others in a common pursuit for the benefit of our fellow creatures can fill us with a sense of purpose, and that can lead us to feelings of satisfaction and true happiness.
“Volunteering with your kids touches hearts, teaches important life lessons and engraves fond, lifelong memories of family bonding,” said Leigh Ann Errico, CEO and founder of Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation. “Understanding and participating in activities to benefit the community is crucial to weaving one’s moral fiber.”
Errico built Wear the Cape and established the foundation in 2013 after she came up short in her search for resources on kindness and character-building that would appeal to her own four children. Other parents clearly had faced the same challenge; Wear the Cape’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/wearthecape) already has over 1,100 “Likes”, all through organic growth. The idea for the brand was sparked when Errico observed that the chance to wear a cape—the organization’s logo—motivates children to act like heroes, or “Cape Kids,” in order to live up to the symbol of honor.
In partnership with Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation, Dr. Brown has embarked on a critical mission to help parents across the country support the development of character in their kids.
The Omaha World-Herald’s Momaha, “where Omaha moms connect,” published a wonderful write-up on the Top 10 list that Wear the Cape issued today about the importance of encouraging your kids to volunteer. Reporter Josie Loza opens the article, “10 reasons to encourage your child to volunteer,” with some brief background on Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation. From the piece:
Wear the Cape is a brand with a mission to empower kids to be heroes.
In fact, its KidKind Foundation was built on the hope that it could teach children to have empathy, to be kind and to restore good character.
All great traits you’d find in a superhero, right?
Josie then goes on to share:
It’s a cool initiative that released a Top 10 list why parents should encourage their kids to volunteer. All research-based reasons that Dr. Phillip Brown, a senior consultant at the National School Climate Center, studied in character education.
To read Josie’s story in full, head on over to the Omaha World-Herald’s website. And to read Wear the Cape Founder Leigh Ann Errico’s reflections on the value in volunteering as a family, as well as Dr. Brown’s insight about the positives of engaging in meaningful service activities, find the press release here.
Young entrepreneur, hero, and Cape Kid of the Month, Mairead Studdiford, presents the true meaning of being “Better Than That”
Everyday heroes are hard to come by in this day and age. Childhood heroes are even more rare. However, “Cape Kids” are amongst us in the classroom, at sporting events, and even in our own neighborhoods. They are going the extra mile to make a difference and Wear the Cape/kidkind foundation believes that these wonderfully heroic kids deserve to be recognized. They become known as the Cape Kid of the Month. This month, we proudly honor Ms. Mairead Studdiford as our Cape Kid!
Mairead Studdiford is a bright and inspiring 13-year-old girl from Far Hills, New Jersey. Just three years ago, she founded Bay Head Boutique where the young entrepreneur began selling unique, designer jewelry to the people of the Bay Head, New Jersey community. However, her “go-getter “attitude and business-minded nature are just the foreshadowing qualities behind the true reason Mairead was selected as this month’s Cape Kid.
The founder of Wear the Cape, Leigh Ann Errico, met this young philanthropist while walking by her Bay Head Boutique stand during the summer of 2011, where they struck up a conversation and did business together. Leigh Ann was blown away by Mairead’s vision and ability to start a company and do some good for her community at such a young age.
This amazing, outgoing young lady has worked every summer for the past three years at her “pop-up” store to sell her unique, designer jewelry. She then selflessly donates her profit to various philanthropic foundations. “I consider myself an entrepreneur but I also have a strong sense of giving back to my community” says Mairead when asked to tell us about herself. In the first year of her store, she decided to give the proceeds of Bay Head Boutique to the Audubon Society. The Audubon Society subsequently built heron nests in Mairead’s name along the barrier islands of the Jersey Shore. Following the second successful year of the Boutique, Mairead donated her profits to Restore The Shore to help re-build the Jersey Shore due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. This summer, she plans on donating her proceeds to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to help support its research to cure childhood cancers. Mairead plans on expanding her market to the internet and is currently working on a website for the Bay Head Boutique.
Though the Bay Head Boutique has been Mairead’s most current heroic act, she has been “flying in her Cape” since the third grade. This was when she became the founder of COATS FOR KIDZ at The Peck School in Morristown, where she attends school. COATS FOR KIDZ is a donation outlet for her classmates to drop off their winter coats after they have done their spring cleaning. Mairead then delivers the collected coats to the Morristown Shelter for people in need. COATS FOR KIDZ has now been running for 5 years and has been an overwhelming success. More than 300 coats have been collected and the event has become a tradition at The Peck School every spring for Mairead to host and lead.
We at Wear the Cape are super proud of our newest member of our Cape Kid society. Mairead has graciously agreed to join our team as a member of the Junior Committee for the kidkind foundation and serve as an advisor to the founder and help guide our ongoing agenda of goodness. You can be sure that Mairead will continue to do great things, to choose kind. We could not be more inspired by this fine young lady. Congratulations Mairead.