Your newborn’s unmarked skin, its perfect smile, the innocent sounds meant just for you. You commit to protect your child’s well-being. But how well can you?
Much of your baby’s health isn’t programmed in its genes but will be determined by outside influences. So you tell yourself that you will set an example by showing how to eat right, exercise, not smoke or abuse drugs.
But as your child grows, how successful will you be against the challenges your adolescent will feel from peers, social media, advertising, and the constant engagement with electronic devices? And what if you fail?
One out of every three children will develop diabetes during their lifetime because of being overweight or obese. And the chance of being overweight among 12 to 19 year-olds has tripled in the past 20 years.
Here are some additional federal government’s statistics: Nearly 30 percent of Americans are considered completely sedentary, meaning they do less than 30 minutes of any physical activity, which negatively affects their health and how long they will live.
But self-esteem along with adult guidance, can effectively take on peer pressure.
So how can you help build your youngsters’ self-esteem, early on, before they will be challenged? Not all youth will be good-looking, good students, strong athletes, have winning personalities, and know how to dress well. Low self-esteem creates awkwardness and discomfort–and many youth as well as adults–escape these feelings by eating excessively or distancing themselves from others or take drugs.
Yet every youngster can excel at one activity that research shows does increase self-esteem: helping others.
The thank-you’s, hugs, smiles, and handshakes received from the individual they’ve helped send a message to the young helper: “People like you, they need you, and you can have a positive affect on people. You play an important role in their lives”
In my book, “The Healing Power of Doing Good”, I created the term “helpers high,” which is used internationally to describe the strong, uplifting feelings experienced by those who help others on a regular basis (about 100 hours a year) and have personal contact with those they help. The majority of these volunteers–of all ages–report feelings of increased self-esteem.
The big challenge for youth to volunteer is getting started. Because it’s doing something different, most youngsters feel uncomfortable at first and are not driven to volunteerism.
But that brings up the commitment you made to your newborn. Parents say they can’t think of activities for the entire family to participate in. However, volunteering is one you can do together and boost everyone’s self-esteem.
Family volunteering is a way to fight threats to your childrens’ health. Become part of “The Healing Power of Doing Good.”
If you’ve seen how volunteering can help the self-esteem of youth, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Explaining how to experience better health can often be frustrating,
Can I do better telling you how to earn more money?
“The research is clear, you’ll live longer,” I emphasize when I lecture about the health benefits gained by certain kinds of volunteering that reduce stress. When discussing my study involving more that 3,300 persons—and where the term “helper’s high” was created and first introduced—I describe the physical and emotional health gains enjoyed from helping strangers regularly. This study was the forerunner for Washington’s 2007 report on the “Health Benefits of Volunteering.” That document dramatically declared that there was now enough research to show “that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates.”
Yet the longer-life promise has created just a moderate growth in personal-contact volunteering, which produces emotional highs and endorphins, that buffer stress. That is what is now prompting me to talk about how helping others can lead to employment and also earning more money on the job. Here are four reasons why volunteerism benefits your bank account as well as your body:
–The interview: Job interviewers say they need to find employees who can deal with diverse groups in our ever more heterogeneous work force. Volunteering is one of the few ways you have to prove you have that experience.
–Hard working: There are the unemployed who continue to search for a job, and there are those who, while searching for employment, can describe their volunteer activities during this tough period. Which applicants can better show they go the extra mile?
–Creativity: An important but difficult attribute for the employer to identify. The applicant who volunteers can discuss the difficulties of reaching out and getting through to the poor, the immigrant, the school dropout, the disabled—whomever she or he is working with. There is nothing more creative than being able to affect the behavior of another person, to counsel, influence and mentor them in a positive way.
–Trust: The concern of every employer about every new potential employee. Someone donating their time to help others appears to the interviewer to be someone far less likely to take advantage of people or a situation. They are deemed more reliable and trustworthy.
In conclusion, perhaps you feel that you are so young that the ability to add years to your life by helping others isn’t a compelling enough advantage at your age. Then consider volunteering, becoming a mentor, or providing a helping hand to others as a way to obtain employment or receive more recognition on the job, that could lead to more income. These are challenges facing everyone in the midst of this recession and especially confronting the unemployed younger person.
And along with that paycheck and the path to a potential career, the research will throw in that you’ll live longer by experiencing the helper’s high.
If you have found new employment or have been recognized in the workplace because you have helped others through volunteerism, please let me know. Email me at email@example.com.
At the same time that our recession-weakened nation experiences slashes in public services, social work graduate students at Fordham University are being trained to identify and implement low or no-cost ways to help the most vulnerable in our society. Social workers have become an important force in supporting and protecting at-risk populations, with services that translate into benefits to our society, despite the Great Recession.
David Yassky, Taxi and Limousine Commissioner and former City Councilmember, spoke recently to students in one session of the course that I teach, Advocacy and Public Policy, at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. “It’s always hard to get social changes approved, but I don’t think it’s any harder now to get change, as long as it doesn’t cost a lot of money. And you, as social workers, through your daily experiences, can identify such solutions and fight to get them adopted,” Yassky told my class.
In the 1980s, I led the adoption of New York City’s law requiring posters in bars and restaurants warning about drinking during pregnancy–which resulted in national legislation–and another law preventing job discrimination against recovered alcoholics. Several years ago, I was also instrumental in establishing a state law requiring mentoring programs to inform parents about whether or not they did background checks on the mentors. I am most proud that these laws have become national models.
Each one of my second year graduate students in the course Advocacy and Public Policy, is required to identify and advocate for a new, small public policy that can improve society at little cost. Although the recession affects all of us, the demands on specific individuals have become greater, and the need for social services grows even greater, My students have had no problem finding these issues and their public policy solutions.
For example, here are some of their concepts:
-Mental health seminars in high schools so students can identify warning signs in themselves and others and prevent violent behaviors
-Requiring people who are HIV positive to inform those they are sexually active with
-Have public TV and radio regularly post social indexes on how well or poorly society is solving its social ills and invite public involvement where changes are most needed
-Offering affordable transportation for low-income cancer patients, who now may be late or even miss appointments
-Stopping users of suboxone, a methadone-like drug, from selling their supply to get others high
-A requirement that public housing conditions that cause asthma be fixed within a month, rather than a year;
-Allowing pregnant women to avoid going through school metal detectors.
As someone who has who led nonprofit agencies for over two decades, I understand that social workers are required by their profession to identify solutions to public problems and advocate for their implementation. For the disadvantaged, who are most affected by the Great Recession, the initiatives developed by social workers offer a balance in these challenging situations, and proves that optimism for the future is still possible.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the position of ‘social worker’ is one of the fastest growing occupations in the country. However, social workers starting out today have high tuition bills, are faced with a high cost of living, and are concerned that their charitable employers may be cutting back. So there is pressure on them to just do the work they are employed to do and not go beyond to pursue changes in public policies.
The goal of the Fordham program is to show my second-year graduate students that they are one vital counterweight to the Great Recession.
Our society’s downhill ride should be getting scarier for me.
Social Security is spending more than it takes in. Stressful unemployment can affect anyone. Violent extremists can hurt any of us. A giant trade deficit might lead to a trade war that can shatter everyone’s well-being.
Scary because there are no united forces pushing back with answers. No consensus is forming around new policies and the need to make reasonable sacrifices. So the public and its officials do what frightened people naturally do: limit their concern to just protecting their own interest groups.
Except I stay optimistic. Reason: My daily work brings me into contact with people involved in finding answers to overcome major problems, who will compromise to achieve these programs, and know they have to personally give up benefits to achieve progress. If the work of these people became far better known, it would connect with a large part of the population that also knows naturally that unity, not self-protection, is the way to stop our downhill slide.
I see, feel and touch this optimism because I am director of a center, sponsored by a university’s graduate schools of business and social service, that trains present and future nonprofit leaders. About ten percent of each training program involves participants who have limited income, are personally responsible for the $500 tuition, and give up three consecutive Saturdays. Why? They want to establish programs to help create a better tomorrow, and to do this now are ready to fight the battle against today’s Great Recession and its effects.
One student is a paralyzed man who severed his spinal column in an accident. He is creating an organization to find affordable housing for young people, in wheelchairs, who have limited income and often are placed in nursing homes—costing $15,000 a month because wheelchair accessible living can’t be found for them in regular housing.
Another program attendee, a woman school volunteer, shocked by the violence among high school boys and their low graduation rate, wants to create a charity to give inner-city boys a program every Saturday to help them improve themselves and avoid violence.
Seeing how the death of her mother attracted 500 people to the funeral because of admiration for her mother’s work as a nurse, one class member is raising money to create a nonprofit to send poor youth to nursing schools.
Walking by many homeless each day, a participant is trying to develop a project to recruit individual counselors for the homeless.
After seeing the lack of health care for the elderly, one of the students wants to develop a nonprofit to increase the number of health care graduates who work with older persons.
A woman whose poor, ill mother got lost in the health care system wants to initiate a program that will provide advocates for the elderly.
A couple’s trip to Cambodia showed them that the country has a limited future without better education, and they hope to develop schools there.
All of their stories involve the need to fight against odds, cooperate, and be willing to personally sacrifice to achieve the goal of helping others.
It’s incumbent on universities and colleges to hold unbiased, fact-gathering sessions around the issues affecting our nation’s future, and at these gatherings provide a platform for participants in the various social service programs to tell their stories.
Then young adults would hopefully become more involved with political groups and associations and encourage these groups to accept the concept of struggle, sacrifice and cooperation, which economists and other researchers keep saying the nation needs to confront the recession.
The people who will inherit the future need to become a resource today and begin to rally support for the unity necessary to push back against our downhill slide.