Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Boys And Girls Club Day For Kids

Today is Boys And Girls Club Day For Kids!
Before I get into an explanation of what exactly the day means, let me tell you what the Boys And Girls Club means to me.
When I was homeless as a teenager, for a short while I lived on the streets of Aurora, CO... a town so close to Denver, I used to literally stand with one foot in Denver and one foot in Aurora, just because I thought that was a totally cool thing to do! (I also used to walk to downtown Denver, from Aurora, on a regular basis!)
There was a Boys And Girls Club in the neighborhood where I was staying. For two dollars, any kid could get a year's membership. During the summer, it seemed to be used as an affordable day care center. People who otherwise could not afford child care, and would perhaps have to leave their young school-aged children home alone, would drop their kids off at the Club in the morning, and get them in the evening. Kids could eat lunch there, play sports in the gym, watch movies, play arcade games, do art projects, do homework, go on field trips, and more.
For me, it was literally a safe place to get off the streets and chill for a while. I was a little older than most of the kids there, but I had fun there, and I eventually recruited one of my friends from the streets, a homeless girl named Alex, to come with me. (You were supposed to get your parent's signature, but since we didn't have any parents to speak of, we just spanged the two bucks from strangers, and forged the names of fictional parents!)
At any rate, I've always remembered my short but sweet time as a member of the Boys And Girls Club. I think it is a very important club because it gives kids an informal place to spend time with positive adult role models.
Day For Kids is all about that... recognizing how important it is for kids to be able to spend quality time with adults. Even if kids have the most kind, supportive parents in the world, they can still benefit greatly from having other positive adults in their lives. Everyone has something different to teach kids, so if a kid has several different supportive adults in their lives, she will be that much better off.
So, today, think about what you can do to be a supportive person in a child's life. If you are a parent, of course you are already very important to your own children, and it may be very hard to find time to do something such as mentoring other kids or volunteering. But you can still make sure your children's friends know that you are a supportive adult. Talk to your children about what they should do if they found out that a friend was being hurt by an adult, was doing something dangerous, etc. Tell your kids that not only can they come to you if they are having troubles, but they can bring their friends to you also, and you will try to help.
You can also make an extra effort to be a supportive person to the other children in your life... your nieces and nephews, the children of your friends, etc. Some simple ways to reach out to the youngsters in your life may be to remember to send them cards or small gifts on their birthdays and other special days, and making an effort to remember what their interests and hobbies are so you can converse with them when you see them.
If you can spare the time, volunteering or mentoring can be a great way to make a difference for kids. You could even do this as a family. For instance, if you have older children or teenagers of your own, bringing them with to provide tutoring or child care at a homeless shelter may be a great experience for all involved... your kids get to learn how it feels to help a younger child, and the children they work with can bask in the attention of the cool "big kids!" Or, if you have younger children, mentoring a teenager and inviting him along on some of your family outtings can be a great idea. Many older kids, such as teens in foster care, might not have had many chances to do things such as go to the zoo or the Children's Museum or Kiddyland when they were young, and although they might be too embarassed to be taken to these places by themselves, going there along with younger children can be a lot of fun with them. (Just remember not to depend on the kid you mentor to be a babysitter... he or she will need your attention as much as the smaller kids will!)
CARE TO COMMENT? When you were a kid, what adults made a difference in your life, and how?
How do you now make a difference in the lives of kids, or how would you like to?

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