5 Ways to Show LGBTQIA Children Love and Respect

By Afsaneh Moradian, author of the Jamie Is Jamie series 

5 Ways to Show LGBTQIA Children Love and Respect

There’s been a lot of discussion in the news recently about children’s mental health. Kids are suffering from anxiety, grief, and depression. According to the CDC (2020), “Suicide has become the second leading cause of death for youth under the age of eighteen.”

The statistics are even more staggering for LGBTQIA children and teens, who are four times more likely to contemplate, plan, and commit suicide (per The Trevor Project). Since they may endure higher rates of rejection by friends and family and more bullying at school, LGBTQIA kids may not be sufficiently supported, accepted, and loved.

It’s our job as educators, parents, and adults to celebrate all the children in our lives for who they are as individuals.

Here are five ways to show LGBTQIA children and teens that you love and respect them.

1. Understand that children, as young as preschool, know themselves and how they feel better than you do.

When a child tells you they identify as a gender different than the one they were assigned at birth, embrace it. Don’t question or dismiss it. Gender is fluid. That child may identify differently in the future, or they may not. But it’s always important to validate a child’s identity at any age and stage.

2. Use a child’s chosen name.

Far too many adults continue to call children by their deadnames because it’s written on attendance lists and official paperwork. Every time a child is called by the wrong name, it is a reminder that they are not seen or accepted for who they are.

Writing a child’s current name on an attendance sheet, cubby, locker, and other public spaces sends an immediate message that the child is respected, supported, and loved.

It’s not a child’s job to share their reasons for changing their name. It’s our job to accept who the child is and use their correct name.

3. Respect a child’s pronouns.

Maybe you’re unused to using singular they/them, or maybe you still see the child as the boy or girl you knew. However, when someone tells you explicitly what pronouns to use in reference to them, it’s disrespectful and a form of bullying not to comply.

Calling a boy “she” or a girl “he” is a form of bullying. It’s also bullying if you refuse to use they/them for nonbinary children who go by those pronouns. When adults choose to disregard a child’s name and pronouns, they are using their power to invalidate that child and teaching other children that it’s okay for them to engage in this kind of bullying.

One simple way to respect children’s pronouns is to begin group activities by making name tags with pronouns or inviting children to share their pronouns in introductions. Providing children with an opportunity to share their pronouns, with the adult’s support, will help everyone use correct pronouns.

4. Create inclusive spaces.

Encourage children to wear what they’d like and play what they’d like. By removing gender from clothing and toys, children can feel free and safe to be themselves. When we celebrate children for their individuality, we create respectful and accepting spaces for LGBTQIA children and teens.

5. Really listen to children.

Rather than assume what a child prefers, ask. When we respect children’s opinions, likes, and dislikes, we show them that we truly care about them and their needs and wants. When children feel seen and heard, they can feel safe to trust the adults in their lives and know that they will receive support when needed.

Respecting, supporting, and showing love isn’t hard to do. It requires listening with an open mind and adjusting any assumptions or expectations we may have. Pride month is a wonderful reminder to celebrate LGBTQIA children and teens and to keep that celebration going all year long!

Afsaneh MoradianAfsaneh Moradian has loved writing stories, poetry, and plays since childhood. After receiving her master’s in education, she took her love of writing into the classroom where she began teaching children how to channel their creativity. Her passion for teaching has lasted for over fifteen years. Afsaneh now guides students and teachers (and her young daughter) in the art of writing. She lives in New York City.

Free Spirit books by Afsaneh Moradian:
Jamie Is JamieJamie and Bubbie book coverJamie's Class Has Something to Say book cover


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FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2022 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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Summer Volunteering Ideas for Teens

By Natalie Silverstein, MPH, author of Simple Acts: The Busy Teen’s Guide to Making a Difference

Summer Volunteering Ideas for Teens

After a hectic school year, full of academic challenges, extracurricular activities, sports, part-time employment, social pressures, and standardized testing, your teen deserves a break during the summer months. They may want to relax and unplug from the considerable challenges and disappointments of the last two years, as all young people have struggled with virtual learning, social isolation, and the unique pressures of navigating adolescence through a pandemic.

We need to encourage our teens to take care of themselves and their mental health by giving them the space and tools to do things that bring them joy and fill their cups with meaningful experiences. Some of those activities should absolutely include volunteering, being of service to others, and working to make a positive impact on the world.

I believe, and research clearly supports, that the “helper’s high” is real. Serving others makes us feel happy, less lonely, more confident, and more deeply connected. As the poet Maya Angelou said, “Among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” Why would we not want to give these gifts to our stressed and struggling teens?

If your teen is not going to sleep-away camp, enrolled in summer school, or working to earn extra money, they can explore ongoing volunteer opportunities in your community or consider creating fun and impactful service projects for themselves and their friends. Often, service hours earned in the summer are applicable toward school service requirements. Even if teens don’t “need” hours, volunteering keeps them busy, introduces them to new people, allows them to learn more about the issues they care about and the nonprofits making an impact in their community, and provides meaningful life skills.

These experiences may also come in handy while writing college essays or interviewing for a job, and they will certainly make teens feel good about the way they spent their summer: turning time off into time on for the greater good.

There are many ways for teens to utilize their talents, energy, skills, and enthusiasm to serve others during their summer vacation. Here are ways you can help them get started.

Help your teen brainstorm issues and causes they care about, identifying the problems that bother them and the questions they are curious about and want to explore more deeply. Direct them to search for nonprofit organizations in your community (or nationally) that are making an impact and help them identify the talents and gifts that they might share with these organizations.

Think expansively! Gifts and talents can take many forms. Maybe your teen is patient, or is great at explaining technology, has good penmanship, or is a fast typist. Pretty much anything your teen is good at or enjoys doing can be shared to help another person.

Encourage teens to commit to a weekly (or even daily) volunteer shift at a nonprofit they already support during the school year. During summer break, they can work to deepen their commitment to the organization and ask to take on additional tasks and responsibilities. They might even consider asking if they can be an intern (see more information on internships below).

Provide support for teens interested in hosting fundraising activities in support of a specific charity. The laid-back summer months are a great time for a variety of easy, fun, and crowd-pleasing fundraisers that will attract attention and encourage friends and other teens to volunteer. Teens can organize a car wash, lemonade stand, bake sale, drive-in movie night, swim-a-thon, or any number of other home-grown fundraising events. And don’t forget to remind them to be resilient when asking for donations or support. The worst thing a person can say is “no.” They should learn to greet every response—positive or negative—with a smile and an expression of gratitude before moving on to the next potential donor.

Suggest that teens get outside and make an impact on the environment through regular volunteering at a local park, community garden, farmers’ market, community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm, or green space. These areas are particularly active during the summer months, and they may need additional help to replace volunteers who depart on vacation. If formal volunteering isn’t possible, teens can gather a group of friends to clean and beautify a local green space and then celebrate their work with a picnic and fun.

If your teen is interested in politics and social justice, they might want to consider volunteering in the campaign office of a local candidate in an upcoming election. These offices typically need help answering phones, making calls, stuffing envelopes, managing social media accounts, and running errands. Your teen can research and identify candidates whose policies, ideas, and values align with their own and reach out to offer their creative talents.

If they’ve outgrown being a camper, teens can volunteer as a counselor at a local camp or summer program run by a nonprofit. There might also be a family in your neighborhood who needs child care help during the long school break but can’t afford to pay a babysitter. Befriending a younger child is a fun and meaningful way to spend time during the summer months, and this assistance can be a huge help to working parents in your community.

If you’re lucky enough to live near one of America’s national parks, they provide educational and volunteer opportunities for teens who care about the environment and preserving our natural resources—or teens who simply enjoy the outdoors. Volunteers of all ages are welcome at most national parks. Teens can search for appropriate opportunities through the National Park Service’s volunteer program.

Older teens might be eligible for internship opportunities offered by local and national nonprofits. Some internships offer a salary or stipend, but others simply provide valuable work experience and a deeper understanding of the nonprofit world. Many nonprofits now also offer virtual internship opportunities in a variety of areas, including social media support, fundraising, and connecting with clients who are unwell or isolated. Teens can make use of several national organizations for help connecting with nonprofits:

It has been my experience that teens and young adults want to engage in this important work, but they often don’t know where to begin. As caregivers, we can provide the resources and guidance teens need to identify the activities that resonate for them, while providing support and praise for their accomplishments and efforts. Teens who are given the time, space, and encouragement to engage in this work during the quieter days of summer are more likely to continue the work during the school year and beyond, growing into the kind, grounded, and purpose-driven leaders of tomorrow.

Author Natalie Silverstein, MPHNatalie Silverstein, MPH, is an author, speaker, consultant, and passionate advocate for family and youth service. Her first book, Simple Acts: The Busy Family’s Guide to Giving Back, was published by Gryphon House in 2019 and was named one of the “10 Books for Parents Who Want to Raise Kind Kids” by HuffPost.

In September 2013, Natalie launched the first local affiliate of Doing Good Together (doinggoodtogether.org), a Minneapolis-based nonprofit with the mission of helping parents raise kids who care and contribute. As the New York area coordinator, she curates a free monthly email listing of family-friendly service opportunities that is distributed to thousands of subscribers. Natalie is a frequent writer and speaker on the importance of service and acts of kindness in family life, and she has presented to parents, educators, and children across the country. She has appeared on many popular podcasts and on the 3rd Hour of TODAY on NBC. Her personal essays have appeared on parenting websites Grown and Flown, Red Tricycle, and Mommy Poppins, and on the Moms Don’t Have Time to Write platform on Medium.

Natalie earned an undergraduate degree in health policy and administration from Providence College and a master’s degree in public health from Yale. She lives in New York City with her husband and three children.

Simple Acts book coverNatalie is the author of Simple Acts.


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FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2022 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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5 Summer Boredom Busters

by Deborah Serani, Psy.D., author of Sometimes When I’m Bored

Summer is a time of ease and relaxation for many children. But for some, all the unstructured time, with no school, after-school activities, or friends to fill it, can raise feelings of boredom. Adults can help little ones bust summer boredom by teaching them how boredom is a signal to turn a lackluster situation into something more interesting. Here are five tips that can help.

5 Summer Boredom Busters

1. Stick to a Routine

While children and adults alike may love being free of the wake-up times and bedtimes of the school year and may enjoy the relaxed structure of summertime, routine still plays a vital part in keeping boredom at bay. Routines give us a reference point throughout our day and helps children keep time during vacation mode. So, keep a daily routine to meals, chores, and self-care. Build quiet time, creative time, and playtime into this routine to help bust boredom.

2. Explore the Outdoors

Summer is a great time to invite children to play and explore at their own pace. Backyards and green parks are great spaces to encourage children to watch nature. So, collect rocks. Follow an ant trail. Have a color hunt. Play float or sink by filling a bowl of water and asking children to collect items to see if they will, you guessed it, float or sink. Play I Spy with your little one. Draw with chalk, watch the clouds, or play hopscotch.

3. Build Community

Structured lessons or school activities need not be missed by you or your kids. Consider getting your child involved in your local community. Be it through a day camp, a mini-camp, a community recreation program, or a one-and-done fundraiser, involving children on a local level teaches them to be civic minded and engaged in their own neighborhood.

4. Read, Read, Read

Carving out time to read is a great boredom buster—and will ignite a lifelong love of reading. Help children set some reading goals like reading a book a week or reading aloud together. Don’t forget to visit your local library for reading activities and author events.

5. Make Memories

Summer can be a meaningful time to create memories and share experiences with children. A vacation, a short get-away, or structured quality time with loved ones can create lasting memories, strengthen family ties, and reduce boredom. Don’t forget to take photos and invite children to create a scrapbook of these moments to make the experience last even longer.

Deborah SeraniDeborah Serani, Psy.D., is an award-winning author and psychologist in practice for 30 years. She is also a professor at Adelphi University, and her writing on the subjects of depression and trauma has been published in academic journals. Dr. Serani is a go-to expert for psychological issues. Her interviews can be found in Newsday, Psychology Today, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Associated Press, and affiliate radio programs at CBS and NPR, among others. She is also a TEDx speaker and has worked as a technical advisor for the NBC television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She lives in New York City.

Deborah is the author of the Sometimes When collection.

Sometimes When I'm Sad  Sometimes When I'm Mad  Sometimes When I'm Bored book cover


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2022 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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Boost Your Kids’ Goal-Setting Skills with the Help of Tiny Habits

By Beverly K. Bachel, author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens

Summer is a great time to turn your get-to-it-later kids into real goal-getters with the help of tiny habits.

According to BJ Fogg, author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, tiny habits are small, positive actions that can be completed in as little as 30 seconds a day.

While such actions may seem inconsequential, when repeated consistently, they become habits. And habits, even when tiny, can launch kids on the path to success when it comes to achieving much bigger goals.

Boost Your Kids’ Goal-Setting Skills with the Help of Tiny Habits

Adding Tiny Habits to Kids’ Goal-Setting Toolbox

Why are tiny habits so powerful? One reason is because completing them doesn’t rely on motivation or willpower. According to Fogg, tiny habits depend on three simple ingredients:

  1. An anchor moment that reminds us to do a tiny behavior.
  2. A tiny behavior that we complete immediately after the anchor moment occurs.
  3. An instant celebration that we perform as soon as we complete the tiny behavior.

Teens I work with find these “ingredients” a helpful addition to the tried-and-true goal-setting strategies they already employ.

Tiny habits pack a big punch

Here’s how three tiny habits might play out for a teen who wants to make the most of each day and build better relationships with family and friends:

Anchor moment Tiny behavior Instant celebration
When my alarm goes off . . . I will immediately get out of bed and stretch.

 

Then I will say, “It’s going to be a great day.”

 

When I walk into the kitchen and see my family . . .

 

I will smile and say good morning. Then I will give them a high-five.

 

When I am with my friends . . .

 

I will ask them how they’re doing and truly listen to what they say.

 

Then I will tell them something I like about them.

 

Tiny habits such as these build on SMART goals which are goals that are:

  • Specific: A goal should make clear what kids intend to accomplish. For instance, “I want to record some music” is a bit fuzzy. “I want to record a demo by the end of summer” is much clearer.
  • Measurable: A goal should enable kids to measure progress—and quantify success. So “earning some money” isn’t all that SMART, but “earning at least $25 a week” is.
  • Active: Does the goal paint a picture of what kids should be doing? “Having more friends” doesn’t, but “saying hi to three new people every day” does.
  • Reachable: A goal should s-t-r-e-t-c-h but not break a kid. Keep in mind that what that means is different for each person.
  • Timed: Does the goal have a clear end date or time? If not, help kids get SMART by assisting them in setting a realistic deadline.

With good tiny habits such as these, kids feel better about themselves. And the better they feel, the more likely they are to both set and achieve goals.

BONUS! Download a “Setting SMART Goals” worksheet.

Beverly BachelBeverly Bachel is a freelance writer and the author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens. One of the current goals she’s set with her family is to text each other more often.

 

What Do You Really WantBeverly is the author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens.


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2022 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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Enter for a Chance to Win the Affirmations for Kids Book Bundle!

This month we are giving away books that show children all the ways they’re supported as they grow and learn. One lucky reader will win: I Love You All the Time, Jamie Is Jamie, I Like Being Me, and I’m Me.​ Follow the steps below to enter and unlock bonus entries.

Affirmations – June Campaign

The winner will be contacted via email on or around June 27, 2022, and will need to respond within 7 business days to claim their prize or another winner will be chosen. Winner must be US resident, 18 years of age or older.

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