J2 Content – Perspectives

A varied collection of thoughts on education and parenting

Adopt an Elephant

I was talking to another mom the other day who was in the midst of planning her son’s birthday party. She asked me if I knew where she could get party supplies with an elephant theme.

“Elephant theme?” I asked. “Why elephants?” She explained that instead of the party guests bringing her son gifts, they were being asked to contribute a small dollar amount that would be pooled and used to “adopt” an elephant calf at the San Diego Zoo. With a minimum donation of $35, children can adopt an elephant calf. The funds are used for medical care, food, and enrichment items for a baby elephant. The child who makes the donation receives an adoption certificate, a photograph of their adopted elephant, and an animal fact sheet so they can learn more about the animal.

When I heard about this, I thought, “What a great idea!” Every time I host a birthday party for my daughter, her well-meaning friends give her lots of little trinkets and toys, AKA more junk! She doesn’t have room for any more toys in her bedroom, and chances are, she won’t play with them after the first week anyway!

The mom explained to me that this is something she has done with her children for the past few years, and although they were reluctant in the beginning to give up getting birthday presents, they have since learned how good it feels to give back and to help someone or something in need.

This is something I have tried to instill in my own children for a long time, without much success. I want them to know how fortunate they are to have a safe home, food on the table every night, clothes in their closets, and a family that loves them. Sometimes I wish I could take them to third world countries to see how people live with so much less. When they complain about how unfair it is that Suzy at school has the newest iPod or smartphone and all her clothes come from the designer stores at the mall while theirs don’t,  it makes me want to scream! I have come to realize that my children are spoiled.  My efforts to provide a comfortable life for them have resulted in children who always want more and better, and can never seem to be satisfied with what they have.

So I am left to ponder, what can I do now to change this? Perhaps they should volunteer their time to give back to society – feed the homeless, work in a soup kitchen or shelter, give to the less fortunate. I can have them give a portion of their allowance to charity, or raise money for victims of a natural disaster like the recent earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan.  I will definitely change how I plan the next birthday party – I will have her start researching now where she wants her birthday donations to go. I will encourage my children to be more compassionate, more giving, and less focused on themselves as they become young adults.

“Studies show that participating in charitable activities can help boost your children’s self-esteem, build confidence and help shape their values. Doing charitable works is enriching, valuable and self-perpetuating; kids learn that helping others can be fun and makes them feel good.”
(Derek Ferriera and Martin Johnson, 2010)

You can learn more about the San Diego Zoo’s Adopt an Animal program here – http://www.sandiegozoo.org/adopt/animal.html

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