Why am I encouraging Oliver to take part in Den Day for Save the Children? There's a number of reasons really. The first and most obvious reason is to raise awareness & funds for a brilliant charity who help children in areas all around the world who are being affected by disaster or conflict.
My other reasons are personal and educational. Ive always strived to encourage open mindedness within Oliver and want to raise him in a selfless, non judgmental and empathetic household. Working in mental health I see stigma on a regular basis and part of my job is to challenge this. I have always explained individual differences to Oliver in an age appropriate way and tried to teach him to embrace peoples individuality, whether that be their ethnicity, culture, disability etc. Oliver regularly comes in to contact with rough sleepers who we pass sometimes in different areas of our community. He has always chatted to these people alongside me, (some know him by name) and has never shied away or given the impression that he is uncomfortable in their presence. This is the wonderful thing about young children. They have no judgments about anybody.
Oliver has come to an age now however where he is asking questions about peoples circumstances. He is taking an interest. He is realising that something is different to his own life. He recently asked me why one of these people he sees and speaks to was sleeping on the floor. He has also asked me why a boy he was playing with not so long ago in the speech therapy waiting room was in a wheelchair. I've answered these questions as honestly as I can that is understandable to a 3 year old and have tried to highlight how every human being is different to another in many ways, shapes and forms, and that is perfectly ok. He is now starting to realise that the world does not necessarily revolve around him and he is starting to gain empathy.
At the same time Oliver is still in the phase of "mine mine mine" and is reluctant to share anything. I want to use the Den Day activity to raise Oliver's awareness that materialistic objects are not always important. Yes, they are lovely to have, but there are more important things in life such as being safe, having shelter, food, warmth, a family to care for you. I'd like Oliver to realise how lucky he is to have the things he does and to perhaps grow some understanding of how this should be appreciated.
I'm not saying that I want my 3 year old to take on the worries of the world. I don't. I'm not going to expose him to things that might make him afraid or anxious. He has his entire adulthood for that. I just want to help him gain some understanding that there are people who are sometimes less fortunate through no fault of their own and sometimes it is nice to help. I want to show him how helping people in the smallest way can actually make the biggest difference. Whether that be doing something obvious such as a fundraiser, or simply holding a door open for someone, sharing a toy, or even smiling as you pass somebody in the street. I want to teach him that being kind and open minded is a way of life.
Oliver will be fully involved in Den Day. As we are making the den I intend to tell him about how some children in other countries would be really grateful for a den to provide them with shelter. When we collect our fund raising money I will explain to him what that money will provide for the children we are sending it to.
I want him to be proud that his mum has taught him these things and given him the opportunity to understand and make a difference to peoples lives. I also want him to have fun. Giving a helping hand to others isn't a chore.
Perhaps some parents don't agree that young children should be made aware of others misfortunes at such an early age. I think they do. I think it shapes them in to the adult that they will soon become. I think it allows them to have understanding, which is a key factor in preventing discriminative and prejudice attitudes when they are older. It's common knowledge that most stigma is born through lack of education and experience.
So there are my reasons. We will be holding our Den Day between 29th May - 6th June. If anyone would like to become involved with their own children then please do contact save the children and request a Den Day Kit which they will post to you.
Alternatively you may like to sponsor Oliver. Here is his link!
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