America and especially Texas, is the land of the “rugged individual”. America is a land of ‘I’s, whereas, most other countries are a land of ‘WE’s. WOHO is a group of ‘WE’.
As a clinical social worker in a large children’s hospital in Texas I often talk with families about their children who have a disability. Are they bullied about being different? If they are bullied does someone stand up for them? Does someone carry their lunch tray when they cannot? Will a student sit with them at recess when they cannot run or climb? Does someone help them take notes when they cannot see the board clearly or cannot write because they cannot lift their hand? Are they included in invitations? Are they the last one to be picked for a team?
I often wonder, do parents teach their children to look out for others; do they teach their children to look after others. And, how can they teach their children to be thoughtful and kind. How can they teach their children to notice other people’s needs?
The ‘WE’ team of WOHO offers the chance to learn kindness and empathy. When we learn to lift up those who need help then we are less likely to look down on those who need help, or, make fun of them. When you volunteer with WOHO and bring your children to volunteer you show them that it is okay to ask for help. And it is good to give help. Children love to be helpers. For a child to be a helper is pretty close to being a super hero! WOHO helps children notice who needs help. We teach children about offering help before they are asked. We draw children from being an ‘I’ into being a ‘WE’.
When we teach children how to think about others and help others, this is called emotional literacy. We all learn to read letters, words, sentences and finally stories; in the same way we can learn to read other people and what they need. You begin to read the story of another person’s life and how lives connect. You can step into another person’s story when you are a helper and be included in their story. The capacity to look and notice when others need help and then respond to the need shows character development. Children who volunteer are children who practice helping others and by helping they become better at understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy). Children who volunteer and care about helping others are less likely to be bullied or to hurt others. In fact they are on the team that is most likely to stand up for those who are picked upon.
Volunteering with WOHO allows sympathy and compassion to be a part of your child’s emotional vocabulary long before they know what those words mean. Volunteering with WOHO means working alongside others; everyone is included.
An ‘I’ can grow to a ‘WE’
Diane Murrell, Clinical Social Worker- Texas Children's Hospital
I am a clinical social worker in the Blue Bird Circle Clinic for Neurology with families who have a child with a chronic illness. I think I have some of the bravest children on the earth; however, sometimes they become isolated from their peers and need help. My special interests are "empathy" and "inclusion" so I feel it is important we learn together to tame monsters and slay dragons that would stop anyone from being included within their community.
I am also an author/illustrator of several children's books that help children learn to make friends.
Follow her Texas Children's Hospital blog here: http://www.texaschildrensblog.org/author/dmurrell/
Follow Texas Children's Hospital Neurology here: http://www.texaschildrens.org/neurology