Day by day we are faced with a multitude of challenges: violence, natural disaster, war, poverty. How do we create systemic change? Society is in need of some basic change and that change in society rests in the hands of future generations. The children are our future as the song says. By encouraging our children’s strengths, sharing our values and teaching them how to be leaders they can make a difference in the world.

Parents must model compassion, courage, gratitude, and leadership for your children. Encourage your children to examine their strengths, their character, through creative ways, a visual diary or a full body collage. If you opt for the collage get a large piece of butcher block paper. Place it on the floor and have someone your child trusts trace their outline. Then ask them to fill in the collage with symbols, images, words that answer the following questions.

What do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror? What do you do well? What kind of activities make you feel good? Who are your role models? What qualities do you have that they have? What qualities would you like to develop? Who have you been named after? What do you know about them? How are you like them or different? What makes you special? What is courage? It would be wonderful for you to model this for your kids and make your own diary or collage. Make it a family activity.

Your children watch everything you do and say. Are you polite to the cashier? Do you say please and thank you? If you want your kids to say thank you mom for driving me to the game or what a great meal, you need to show them how it is done. You need to teach them the fine art of appreciation. Spend some time making appreciation cards that you can give out to people who do a great job. I usually carry some with me. I was at a conference in Baltimore and we had a lunch break. This young woman behind the register was having a really bad day. I gave her a card that said she was magnificent. She held it up and shouted I am magnificent. She had a smile on her face and all the people in the restaurant started to cheer.

Do you volunteer your time? From the time I was a little girl I was shown and told repeatedly that we need to give back to our communities. We need to repair the world which in Hebrew is Tikkun Olam. I was encouraged to collect money and donate it to causes that touched my heart. When my daughter had her Bat Mitzvah we made the center pieces out of art supplies and books together. Then we took a trip down to Children's Memorial Hospital where we donated them. Show your children all the ways that you care and the things they can do at their level. Create a monthly family be of service day. Let them be part of the decision how they will make a difference. How they will carry out the activity. Make a list: donate part of their allowance; bring balloons to the park for other children; pass out gift certificates for ice cream cones; spend time at a senior center; walk a neighbor's dog, pick up litter at the local park.

Similarly they can also be taught the art of forgiveness and asking for forgiveness. If they makes any mistake, they can be taught how express I am sorry at the same time they can be taught how to forgive others for their mistakes. Parents can show them how to write a note saying I am sorry. They can also teach them to count to ten before they yell at someone and hurt their feelings. Encourage them to talk about how it feels when someone yells at them or is angry at them. Talk about creating peace. What is your vision of peace? Have them draw their own. Write a poem about peace. Share it with friends and family. Wouldn't you rather be talking about creating a peace room instead of a war room?

A major component of social change is what you teach your children. When you teach them to say I am sorry, I appreciate what you have done, please and thank you, you have begun a strong first step in creating permanent and lasting change. When you show them how to lead by example, and they are confident in their ability to make a difference, change will occur. Our children are the mirrors of our values as a people, as a society and the world. Show them how you value love, gratitude and peace. These are invaluable life skills.

Author's Bio: 

Rae Luskin, a Chicago artist, teacher, activist and the author of ART FROM MY HEART, is a leader in using creative expression to foster self-worth, resilience, healing and social change. For more information, visit our site : www.raeluskin.net