To raise kids who care, put your family on the “social cause diet.” This is not a trendy diet that leaves everyone hungry and irritable—who needs more of that around the house? Rather, this is a diet that fills you up.

When you give your time and resources for the benefit of another person or cause, whether it be through a volunteer service or random act of kindness, you actually feed your soul; you nourish that intangible part of yourself that has the potential for growing richer, deeper and more beautiful year after year. Moreover, this action enhances your mental and physical well being, too. Exciting and ample research indicates that people who serve others on a regular basis enjoy the same kind of health benefits gained from proper nutrition and regular exercise.*

And here’s the really good news: as a parent, you are already on the social cause diet! You are serving your family every day, no doubt. You may also be volunteering in your kid’s school, bringing meals to an aging parent or hurting friend, or doing any number of things that cry out for your help. The challenge here is to create opportunities for your kids to follow suit so they will grow accustomed to a lifestyle of giving and enjoy the rich benefits along the way.

I suggest having a family meeting to brainstorm volunteer project ideas that the whole family can get involved in. For example, our family sponsors a child through World Vision (www.worldvision.org) and another through Compassion (www.compasion.com). Child sponsorship is a fantastic thing to start when your kids are little. Go online, pick a young child, and watch him or her grow along with your own. Encourage your kids to draw pictures or write notes to your sponsored child every six months or so. A monthly financial commitment and a few caring letters has proven to be enormously effective in turning lives around. This will teach your children how to care in real and effective ways.

Find more ideas at www.volunteermatch.org by simply typing in your zip code and choosing areas of interest. Local volunteer centers, places of worship, and schools will also be overjoyed to tell you about service possibilities. Find a few that appeal to your family, feed your souls, and watch your kids become people who care.

 By Gail Perry Johnston

* Download “The Health Benefits of Volunteering” by the Corporation for National and Community Service at www.socialcausediet.com. For more by Gail Perry Johnston, visit www.gailperryjohnston.com