As students return to classrooms across the United States there should be one date highlighted and bolded on every school calendar—September 21, International Day of Peace. Recognition of this day can be celebrated many ways. Some schools and houses of worship put up a Peace Pole or banner, showing their support of peace around the world. Some communities organize a service project or hold neighborhood picnics.
At Compass Star Montessori, we always read “Can You Say Peace?” by Karen Katz, and discuss the fundamental needs of people around the world. We also do our best to promote peace throughout the school year by displaying kindness to and showing respect others, ourselves, as well as the environment. We undertake service projects (the students usually pick out organizations that help other children or animals), and we hold “peace conferences” whenever an internal conflict arises. CSM also encourages families to include their children in discussions and works that promote peace and kindness at home.
Children entering the Elementary age group have a high need for justice and fairness. It’s also during this age group that bullying behaviors can emerge. One way you can help your children through this challenging phase is to find fiction books that address the issues of justice, fairness, and bullying. By viewing different scenarios from the outside, it can be easier for children to talk about what they think should happen, or if they have strong feelings about how one character or another reacted. It’s also the perfect time to talk through peaceful resolutions and why sometimes fair does not necessarily mean equal.
Another way you can help children practice kindness at home is to assign chores that help others. Some examples include clearing dishes for parents or siblings, carrying groceries in after shopping, or caring for family pets. By giving your child these purposeful responsibilities they gain a sense of pride in helping others and contributing to the family. Encouraging them to do other small acts of service — holding doors for others, offering a seat to an elderly or infirm person, or giving a share of their allowance to a charity of their choice — will make it a natural habit for them, inspiring confidence and a sense of capability.
One of the best ways families can reconnect with quality time while promoting kindness is to do service. Whether your family chooses different projects or does perpetual work with one organization, doing service as a family shows your children that you care about the needs of others and that giving of your time and energy is a virtue. By finding opportunities that children can participate in from a young age, families are expanding their children’s world view, and encouraging them to be part of a peaceful solution to many of our societies challenges.