A version of this letter has been published on the Straits Times Forum
It is heartening to hear that volunteerism is growing in Singapore (Spirit of volunteerism alive and well, 26 Nov). More importantly, parents have a role to play in inculcating important values such as empathy and generosity in their children.
At times, we approach situations asking “what’s in it for me” instead of “what can I do for others?”
But what are the societal implications if these attitudes become more prevalent among younger generations?
For one, the next generation could grow less empathetic and more self-centred, affecting the culture and strength of families, schools, and the larger community. If each individual allows the mindset of “to each his own” to drive their actions, we may see communities becoming more fragmented.
The good news is, we can make use of the school holidays and upcoming festive season to intentionally model for our children how they can contribute to society. Families can get creative in how they implement this, as each one possesses different talents, and may feel an affinity towards different causes.
For example, a great cook might find it second-nature to whip up a dish in the kitchen to share with an elderly neighbour who may have limited mobility.
Or if your child loves doing art and craft, they could volunteer to teach children with chronic health conditions to do simple art pieces. These small yet significant acts can help them to understand the joy of giving.
It is crucial to start engaging our children at a young age in such giving habits. No matter how small these may be, they lay the groundwork for lifelong attitudes of generosity and giving back to society.
Beyond Giving Week, inculcating empathy in the next generation of Singaporeans begins with all of us in our everyday lives.
By intentionally talking about and practising kindness as families, we can raise empathetic youths and leaders who will live with the needs of the community in mind. They will be in a strong position to think collaboratively, and forge authentic social connections with others.
Singapore will then stand a better chance of reaching her goal of having 7 in 10 people actively volunteering in 5 years’ time. We can also all look forward to a kinder, more inclusive society.
Focus on the Family Singapore