“Mummy, why is that person sleeping on the floor?”
“Daddy, what is being poor?”
It is not uncommon for parents to be confronted by children with such questions. Compelled by our excitement of their curiosity, we try to provide the answers that evoke positivity. We fret that the crude reality of some of that information we share might overwhelm those little hearts. As a result, we occasionally avoid answering all of their queries. It’s sometimes convenient to dodge them rather than to address them, isn’t it? But, is it right?
736 million people still live in extreme poverty, of which half are under 18. Many of them lack basic necessities like sufficient food, shelter, drinking water and sanitation. It is the reason the United Nations make “No Poverty” their first pledge on the list of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Ending poverty has been the toughest challenge for humanity and thus it is extremely important to introduce to our kids to this topic early on. We must explain to them its cause, existence, severity and how we can work together for its eradication. Without doubt, it can be traumatising for children to process what poverty means. And so, today I want to bring to you ways we can educate our next generation on SDG# 1 – No Poverty – without dampening their spirits.
“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little”, Edmund Burke (1723-1792)
Don’t avoid questions:
Agreed that not all questions the little ones ask are comfortable to answer. There are tricky ones, uncomfortable ones, especially when they want to know the causes of homelessness and hunger. Disregarding such topics will for sure lessen their voice but not their quest. Instead of evading or giving them fabricated replies, try to put them in simple terms omitting the disturbing parts. Include international news and world problems in your daily conversations, in ways appropriate to your child’s age. It is important for your child to learn the significance of a topic that affects nearly 10% of the world population.
Give space to your child’s curiosity:
We learn not by talking but by asking questions. Ask your child questions that trigger reflection and more questioning. Gauge their emotions and understanding of the subject after you share information. Allow your child to explore what it would mean to be poor and how it would feel if it happened to them. Explain to them how small acts of kindness can make big difference.
Be mindful of your actions and words:
Children mimic their parents’ behaviours. Only when your words match your actions can you influence their thoughts. Share with your kids the acts of kindness you experienced in your life. Let them know how you felt and find ways to give your kids similar exposure. For example, plan a visit to a community centre where you can directly participate in care activities. Inspire expressing empathy towards people in need. Seeing you act compassionately will motivate your children to feel okay to be kind and exercise compassion.
Provide assurance that there are ways to help:
It is natural for us as parents to feel intimidated by the goal, “No Poverty”, given it is not a simple problem to solve. And our children may feel that there is little they can do. But we can show them that they can still assist the poor with responsible and sustainable actions. Find a charity within your community that supports SDG# 1 and encourage your children to donate items that they no longer use such as clothes, food supplies, books, furniture etc. An item that had served you might renew its purpose elsewhere with a new friend. In Switzerland, Caritas International is one such organization that collects pre-owned items and distributes them to those in need.
We need to make sure that no people are poor,
That they live peace, feeling safe – and what’s more,
Have a place to call home, a warm bed at night,
That’s what we all need. It’s fair and it’s right.
Share with us in the comments your ideas on how to explain poverty to children and teach them how to be compassionate and caring!