This article was written in September 2019, some of the suggestions may need to be modified because of the current pandemic.
September is a month of big changes for many children. Kids are going back to school, meeting new teachers, starting new sports teams or clubs, learning new homework routines and trying to stay awake as their bodies adjust to the new pace that is September. Given all of these changes that our kids are facing, we at Kids in Service decided to spend time this month talking about bravery and courage. Here is a list of 10 ways to help your children work on becoming more brave and courageous this fall.
1. Volunteer–Volunteering takes a lot of bravery and courage. Each time I set out with my kids to serve our community, my heart is pounding. I often share this fact with my children and they are always surprised to hear that I am just as nervous as they are. Volunteer at your local nursing home and bring a little joy to the residents there. Bring some board games to play with them or ask about what life was like when they were younger. Find a local trash pick up at a park or beach. Volunteer for your local food bank, church or animal shelter. The opportunities are out there if you look for them. Check out some other ideas here and here.
2. Read Stories with Brave Characters–Reading aloud stories is a wonderful and safe way for children of ALL AGES to get to “experience” difficult situations from a safe distance through the characters in the story. Check out our KIS list of books with BRAVE characters. I hope that these books will spark rich conversations with your children about the topic of bravery, fear and courage.
3. Share Your Own Stories of Bravery and Failure–A great way for children to learn about bravery is to hear about the moments in your life that you were brave and courageous. Our children need to know that we are human and that we feel the same emotions they do. Share those moments where you overcame fear, share the moments where you failed at something but you were brave and tried again. My kids love to hear the story about when I fell off of a horse while horseback riding. I did NOT want to get back on that horse but after a lot of encouragement from my family, I was brave and got back on. Share your own stories with your kids and allow them to learn about bravery from the people they love most.
4. Trying New Things as a Family–Sit down as a family and brainstorm a list of new things that you could try together. Perhaps you want to try new foods or a new activity. Maybe you want to learn how to play a new sport, or learn a new language. Try one new thing together and then come together to discuss how it went. How did you feel before the activity? Were you nervous, scared or excited? How did you feel after you completed it? Three winters ago, we learned to cross country ski. We took lessons as a family and cheered each other on as we took turns falling and taking on the harder hills. It was a wonderful family experience that took a lot of courage and patience. Perhaps you could set a goal as a family to try new things every season.
5. Make a Courage Board–We have a chalkboard in our downstairs hall that says, “Love Lives Here”. This board was inspired by Sweet Maria Goff and her beautiful book Love Lives Here. In her book Maria shares about the chalkboard that has hung in her home for decades. Her family chalkboard has been a place for positive messages of encouragement and love for the members of their family and guests in their home. On our chalkboard we welcome people into our home, share messages of encouragement to one another and share uplifting quotes of bravery and courage. This board is one of my favorite parts of my home and I love to see the sweet messages that my husband and children write on the board.
6. Watch Movies with Brave Characters–Quality movies, just like books, are not only a great way to spend time as a family but can provoke great discussions about important topics. Here is a list of movies from common sense media that inspire courage. This list has movies for ages 2 and up.
7. Visit a New Place–One of our favorite things to do as a family is to explore a new place. It is so important for EVERYONE to step out of their comfort zone and experience new things. Visiting a new place (whether it is within driving distance or further away) allows you to work as a family to navigate, find information, discover what that place has to offer and share a common experience. If you live near a big city, try visiting one of the neighborhoods that you have never visited before. You may experience new foods, a new language and see some amazing sites along the way. Share with one another the feelings you experience as you set off on this new adventure and then compare them to the the feelings that you have as make the journey back home.
8. Invite New Friends Over-Making new friends can be scary for many kids (and adults). You can model how to overcome this fear by inviting new people over to your home for coffee or a meal. Showing our kids the importance of community, kindness and making new friends is a powerful way for them to learn how to show compassion and make friends in their own lives.
9. Research a Person from History who was Brave–We are BIG history buffs in our family and one of our favorite things to learn about is the brave people who have come before us. We all LOVE Brad Meltzer’s books in his Ordinary People Change the World series. They are fun and filled with information about the courage that people like Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller and many more had to change the world. There are so many good biographies, memoirs and documentaries out there. Encourage each member of your family to learn about a brave person from history. Host a special family dinner where you each share about the person’s life and how they showed bravery and courage.
10. Solve a Problem as a Family–A great way to show how to overcome fear and obstacles is to work as a family to solve a problem. Scavenger Hunts are a fun way to work as a team to solve problems. You can create a scavenger hunt for your family around your home or you can purchase an online scavenger hunt. Let’s Roam has scavenger hunts for most major cities (this is not an advertisement) and it is a fun way to explore a new city or a city you already know very well. Finding a challenge to solve as a family can also be a lot of fun. Destination Imagination has something called Instant challenges and they have 4 free challenges listed at this link. Cooperative Games are another fun way to work as a family. My family loves Gamewright games and the Forbidden series of games are cooperative and challenging. For Harry Potter fans, Hogwarts Battle Cooperative Game is very challenging and requires lots teamwork. My kids and I LOVE this game and are still working to beat game 5 out of 7.