How to Raise Kids Who Care In a Consumer Society


Published:

The daily news can make issues like poverty and the environment seem overwhelming, yet by focusing on issues in ways that make sense to children, parents can raise socially conscious kids who care about the world beyond themselves.

"One of the best ways to build socially conscious kids is to give them opportunities to reach out and help others," says Heather Norman-Scott, Ph.D., a Durham psychologist. She suggests starting out by talking about topics such as the environment and caring and respecting our world and all living creatures.

Talking about issues

Fuquay-Varina mom Cindy Tatem and her husband have an open communication policy with their children. "With society and the world the way it is, we can only pray that our family fundamentals will help them process the world around them," Tatum says. She adds that she and her husband focus on compassion, the human spirit and tolerance through their faith in hopes that their children can "pave the way for something awesome when we are old and gray."

A clinical psychologist and Director of Child and Family Services at the University of North Carolina, Jennifer Youngstrom, Ph.D., says that talking about topics and exposing children to a range of people and settings in a safe way encourages social awareness.

"Parents could begin with a discussion of current events and the news, reading children's books about important historical figures who have championed social equalities, encouraging children to participate in small acts to conserve water and resources, and visits to urban and rural areas," she says.

Youngstrom and her husband recently took their children, ages 6 and 8, with them to a conference in India. "We discussed poverty, population density and the role of women ahead of time," she says.

"During and after the trip, we have discussed our good fortune and differences in the roles of women in each society," Youngstrom says. As a result, her children continue to talk and write about their experience.

"Our kids returned to the U.S. extraordinarily thankful for many of the things often taken for granted [like] food, shelter, clothes, non-arranged marriages, and they have happily and repeatedly donated clothes, toys and food since our return."

To keep from worrying children or scaring them about big societal issues, Norman-Scott suggests focusing on helping and protecting to empower kids and teach them about their community. Several local families are taking steps to do just that.

Poverty and homelessness

Jeannine Herrick, a Durham mother of two, thinks involving her children in addressing issues like poverty teaches them three important things: gathering, giving and gratitude. For her son's upcoming fifth birthday, friends have been asked to bring inexpensive art supplies for her son and one or two pantry items.

"My son understands that not everyone has enough to eat, and he thought it would be nice to take the food to the local food pantry," Herrick says. "He gets to help plan all the details of his parties and still thinks that the 'specialness' of his birthday is about the celebration, not the presents."

Samantha Vermillion wants to teach her children about reconciliation, justice and poverty. "When we see someone asking for money, we try to have breakfast bars and water to give," says the Durham mother of two girls, ages 2 and 4.
She sees her faith as a guiding factor in how to communicate and teach these issues to her daughters, particularly homelessness. "When they ask who the man is, I explain that he is someone God loves very much, who may have had hard things happen in his life, but that if Jesus were here he would give him a feast and be his friend," Vermillion says.

For parents who may be concerned that weighty issues such as poverty will scare their children, Youngstrom encourages communication. "First, explain to the children what they will see, plan ahead about how to keep them safe during the encounter, and discuss the events in simple language afterwards. Parents can discuss how they've created safety and the relatively low likelihood of the situations occurring [to their family]," she says.

'If [my daughter] sees a can at the park,she brings it home so we can recycle it.'
— Sheri Sampson

Environmental issues

The Sheppard family of Chapel Hill was concerned about environmental issues, so they participated in a "carbon challenge" to measure the impact of their lifestyle choices on the environment. They found that some of their decisions — living in a smaller home, having one "family" car and one smaller car, using compact fluorescent bulbs and line-drying clothes — were effective ways to keep their environmental impact low.

Along with their green habits, mom Claudia Sheppard wants to communicate positive messages to her 10- and 8-year-old daughters. She doesn't want them to feel that "all hope is lost," she says, "but I don't think that they feel like that as long as they are being empowered."

Susan Quinby-Honer, owner of Red Hen Enterprises and locally known as "the Worm Lady," advocates teaching kids about the dramatic problems associated with our environment and lifestyle. "The earth is sick. It would be a scary thing if you didn't give them a solution," she says.

Quinby-Honer talks about composting and waste reduction to children in preschool through high school by taking worms into classrooms. Quinby-Honer's motto — "Starve the landfill; Feed the earth" — has produced young environmental activists.

Sheri Sampson was amazed at how quickly her children, ages 2 and 5, became intrigued with environmental issues, particularly recycling. She and her elder daughter put Habitat for Humanity Cans for Homes recycling bins in her daughter's preschool. They also arranged for the Habitat folks to talk to the preschool students about the program, which uses money earned from recycling to build homes.

Sampson's daughters caught the recycling bug. "If [my daughter] sees a can at a park, she brings it home so we can recycle it," Sampson says. Like many parents, Sampson attempts to balance environmental conservation messages. "I don't want to make the earth's situation seem too serious or gloomy," she says. "I want her to care, but don't want to stress her out."

Animal rescue

Noelle Stam, 7, of Durham was so inspired by the idea of helping sick, abused and neglected horses that she dedicated her most recent birthday party to the Triangle Chapter of U.S. Equine Rescue League.

"I liked helping the horses, because some people don't treat them very well," Noelle says. "I think I have too many toys anyway, " she adds. Instead of presents, she asked friends and family members to make donations.

Her mother, Daphne, encouraged Noelle to follow a charitable interest. "I had just purged a bunch of pink plastic from the playroom and despaired at the thought of adding more," Daphne Stam says.

A recent news story about local animal rescue leagues also spurred the action. "In my own charitable giving, I try to focus on local groups," Stam says. "I told her I was very proud of her for making that choice; it was a very unselfish, wonderful thing, and she beamed. And even though her birthday was weeks away and she had plenty of time to change her mind, she never wavered," she adds.

Cultural diversity awareness

Durham mother of two Beth Messersmith is passionate about teaching her young children about diversity.
"The biggest thing for us is proactively making an effort to ensure that they have lots of people of different backgrounds as special parts of their lives," she says. To achieve this, the Messersmiths chose a culturally and ethnically diverse neighborhood and preschool. They participate in local festivals and plan play dates with families that differ from their own.

"We try to particularly encourage friendships and play dates with children who have a different background than we do: being raised by two moms, coming from a different country, being of a different race," Messersmith says. She believes that by having these relationships, she and her husband communicate their family values.

Live up to your beliefs

Messersmith also is an active participant in the Triangle MomsRising chapter that plans community service and community involvement actives in which even young children can take part.
"I believe that the more you integrate service, tolerance and respect into your own day-to-day life and into your child's life, the more likely it is that they will grow up to believe that these are important," she says.

Durham dad Jeff Frank was politically radical as a younger man, which caused a lot of conflict with his own father. Though his politics have balanced out over the years, he struggles with how to parent in a way that fairly conveys his beliefs.

"As I face decisions in raising my son, it is important that I recognize that I am not looking to indoctrinate him in my belief system," Frank says. "My goal is to offer all I can as a role model and guardian, while allowing him to develop into a free-thinking individual."

Many parents feel that modeling the behaviors they want to see from their kids is the best way to teach about the hot-button issues that today's children will face.

Chapel Hill mom Christine Jernigan says, "I struggle with many of these issues. The consumption one is probably most important to me. I do not let my children watch television because I feel the marketing is mercilessly geared towards them."

She is troubled when she overhears parents complaining around their children about possessions. "Kids pick up on this," Jernigan says. "I let my children know through the way I talk and buy that we have enough. I describe our house as a big house and focus on how lucky we are to have it."

Ultimately, she thinks the example her family models will teach her kids about what is important. As Jernigan says: "Be who you want your kids to be."

Robin Whitsell lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and three children.

 

Community Involvement Opportunities

 

The following organizations and Web sites provide community service information and help match individuals, families and groups with volunteer and service opportunities.

Kids Connect
www.kidsconnectnc.org
A virtual and actual community of kids and adults that creates and identifies local and global volunteer activities for young people.

Triangle MomsRising
www.trianglemau.wordpress.com
Local nonpartisan group focused on activism and community service that is generally concerned with issues affecting moms and families. Plans to have volunteer activities for families.

Triangle United Way Volunteer Services
www.unitedwaytriangle.org/volunteer
Online list of volunteer opportunities across the Triangle, including projects for groups.

Volunteer Center of Durham
www.thevolunteercenter.org
Local organization that lists volunteer opportunities, some of which are appropriate for families.

Volunteer Match
www.volunteermatch.org
National organization helps match volunteers with projects in local communities. Can search to request matches suitable for children.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

May 20-23: Crafty Kids, Night Hike, Marker Chromatography and “The Wizard of Oz” Outdoors

Here are some fun things to do the week of May 20-23 with the kids.

Triangle Summer Movies Under the Stars

Enjoy watch these free or discounted films under the summer night sky.

Triangle Summer Movie Deals for Families

Cool off on hot summer day at the movies with your kids.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

May 2019

For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Prior to opening to the general public, the museum will be open from 9am to noon for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The museum's regular exhibits will be available, in addition to...

Cost: $4-$12

Where:
North Carolina Transportation Museum
1 Samuel Spencer Drive
Spencer, NC  28159
View map »


Sponsor: North Carolina Transportation Museum
Telephone: 704-636-2889
Contact Name: Ian J. Kuhn

More information

Ages 6-14 swim, walk and run to benefit Just Tryan It, an organization dedicated to supporting families facing pediatric cancer. Proceeds benefit families at UNC and...

Cost: $55

Where:
Chapel Hill Country Club
103 Lancaster Drive
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
View map »


Sponsor: Just TRYAN It
Contact Name: Sheryl Blackwell
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Enjoy an Art Market with more than 170 visual arts and crafts exhibitors from across North Carolina and the nation; Kidsplosure, showcasing multiple interactive educational...

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
Fayetteville St.
, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Website »

More information

Take part in a day-long event created by local teen girls for local teen girls that features demonstrations and vendors, and successful and powerful women from the community who can show girls the...

Cost: Free with advance registration

Where:
Hilton Raleigh
3415 Wake Forest Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Girls World Expo
Contact Name: Valerie Moore
Website »

More information

The Triangle's annual agricultural festival showcases animals, home grown food, family entertainment, music, antique farm equipment, carnival rides and more. Gate admission and parking are...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Get in the driver's seat with this hands-on experience with vehicles of all kinds. Children will be allowed to touch, climb on and ask questions about their favorite vehicles in a safe,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Community Park
2200 Laura Duncan Rd.
Apex, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Town of Apex
Telephone: 919-249-3507
Contact Name: Allie Prelaske
Website »

More information

Celebrate our community and all things spring, with flowers, gardens, butterflies, shows, arts, crafts, treats and more to delight all ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Chapel Hill
140 W. Franklin St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Website »

More information

It`s 1863 at Yates Mill, and the yard is alive with activity! Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal.  Tour fee:...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (ages 6-under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ages 2-5 enjoy movement and mindfulness. Learn basic yoga elements through age-appropriate breath-work techniques, games, storytelling, and creative visualization.

Cost: $15 or use your package/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 5-13. Homeschool Yoga is a one-hour class designed to strengthen and stretch the entire body, balance the nervous system, improve body awareness. Weave in art and journaling before or after...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East Street
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »

More information

The flowers are in full bloom at the park! Create a craft bursting with color inspired by nature. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages (adult accompaniment...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Ages 5-13 enjoy a one-hour yoga class designed to strengthen and stretch the entire body, balance the nervous system, improve body awareness, encourage the development of communication and social...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with disabilities make New Orleans creole. Register online. Choose course #120057.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Come celebrate Turtle Day by stopping by the park’s visitor’s center to learn some cool facts about North Carolina’s turtles! Meet our live park ambassador – Frankie the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Making a kite is the perfect fun spring project! Learn about the forces that make kites fly and listen to the story of Benjamin Franklin and his kite (did he really draw electricity from lightning...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy the classic story as presented by Rags to Riches Theatre for Young Audiences. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Century Center
Carrboro, NC  27510


Website »

More information

Connect with your baby, other parents and yourself during this adult-focused postpartum yoga class. Recommended for babies newborn to walking. Take a mat, a blanket for your little one, and...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East Street
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
Website »

More information

Discover the joy of cooking with storybook characters. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online. Choose course #120084.

Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Come celebrate Turtle Day by stopping by the park’s visitor’s center to learn some cool facts about North Carolina’s turtles! Meet our live park ambassador – Frankie the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Help monitor and keep bluebird and wood duck boxes clean throughout our park, create or place additional habitat boxes and assist with other natural resource tasks. Come prepared to learn and work...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

This after-school class for kids in grades 3-5 offers fun learning yoga poses and mindfulness techniques to reduce stress. Grades 3-5. 

Cost: $15/class, or use your class pass/membership.

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt. Carmel Church Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a family-friendly movie and a slice or two of pizza. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/person. Free for ages 2 and younger

Where:
The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy karaoke. Take a dish to share. Register online. Choose course #121043.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Come celebrate Turtle Day by stopping by the park’s visitor’s center to learn some cool facts about North Carolina’s turtles! Meet our live park ambassador – Frankie the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy Raleigh’s premier Japanese animation and culture convention. Concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise, unique artwork and more highlight the event. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $65/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Relax in the courtyard with live music and food. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Edison Johnson Community Center
500 W. Murray Ave.
Durham, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy fun, games, friendship and more every Friday.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Each Fourth Friday of the month join us for a night of art, film, food and fun. This is free and open to the public.​

Cost: Free

Where:
SummerStage
800 Taylor St
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Hi-Wire Brewing and abc11

More information

Enjoy Raleigh’s premier Japanese animation and culture convention. Concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise, unique artwork and more highlight the event. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $65/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Get inspired by the park's natural beauty and contribute to a community art project celebrating the spring season of flowers. Head to the Finley Center to make a few paper flowers and help to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Dogs, face painting, animal tattoos, a bounce house, dog contests and canine demonstrations, handmade bandannas, photo booths and local vendors highlight this annual festival to benefit the...

Cost: $15-$30

Where:
Duke University East Campus
Durham, NC


Website »

More information

Take a walk in the woods and discover the animals and plants that call our park home. Help collect data for our Natural Resource Inventory Database and other citizen science projects. All...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

One Saturday of the month join us for our family fun series. This is free and open to the public. Here is what you can expect: 10am-12pm: Come to the plaza for family-friendly activities for...

Cost: Free

Where:
SummerStage
800 Taylor St
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Hi-Wire Brewing, abc11, and Offline

More information

Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are provided,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Stop by our FREE discovery table to learn about songbirds! Registration is not required. The display table is located at the Upper Playground.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (ages 6-under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Geocaching is a treasure hunt where participants use GPS coordinates to track down hidden “caches.” Learn what geocaching is all about and head out to find a real geocache in the park....

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-2117
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Enjoy Raleigh’s premier Japanese animation and culture convention. Concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise, unique artwork and more highlight the event. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $65/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.