100 Ways to Let Kids Know You Care

by | Dec 5, 2013 | Communication, Listening, Emotional Intelligence, Empathy and Kindness

I’ve just come from keynoting a conference on how to stop school shootings and bullying. The audience was packed: educators, mental health professionals, law enforcement, parents as well as elected officials who represented 23 school districts in Southern California. I shared 12 keys that FBI, Secret Service, law enforcement, CDC, as well as research says are our best hope for preventing the tragedy of another Sandy Hook or Columbine. While we know that physical safety (crisis plans, lockdown drills, security checks) are crucial, so too is creating emotional and psychological safety for our children and teaching them the skills of resilience and violence prevention. In fact, creating a safe and caring school climate is proven to not only reduce bullying and behavior issues, but also boost learning and academic success as well as mental health. After sharing the best ways to prevent bullying and keep our schools safer, I posed a final message to my audience:

Let’s not forget the real “common core” for each and every one of our children has always been comprised of four crucial factors: “Will I be safe? Will I feel valued? Will I belong? Will I be capable?” 

Little acts of genuine caring create kinder schools, homes, playgrounds and communities. Here are 100 no-cost, simple ways every adult can do to help kids know we care and help build a solid core. Are there a few you can add to your teaching repertoire, counseling practice, coaching strategies, or parenting skills?

To learn, to succeed, and to be mental strong every child must feel: “I AM safe. I DO feel valued. I DO belong. I AM capable.”  May every child learn those messages from the adults in their lives. Let’s be their heroes.

1.  Greet your students at the door so they know you care.

2.  Smile–genuinely smile-at them.

3.  Acknowledge their presence. Let them know you’re glad to see them.

4.  Ask, “How are you doing?”

5.  Learn their names — and call them by the names they prefer.

6.  Listen to their stories. Hear where they are coming from.

7.  Seek them out…in the halls, the cafeteria, on the playground, on the basketball court…on their turf.

8.  Empower them…ask for their opinions and ideas.

9.  Remember their birthdays or special events in their lives.

10. Find out what turns them on–what are their passions both inside and outside the classroom.

11. Ask about their dreams, their hopes, their secret wishes.

12. Ask if they need help.

13. Give them a way to contact you if needed. When are you available?

14. Tell them you are there for them.

15. Look in their eyes when they talk. Be attentive.

16. Give them your respect. Treat them the way you’d like to be treated.

17. Take time to laugh or just smile together.

18. Give a pat on the back or a high five when deserved.

19. Say hi when you pass them in the hall.

20. Eat lunch in the cafeteria with them — just once a month — or once a year.

21. Share about yourself. Who are you?

22. Share a good book or a great story together. Or suggest a good book or a great story.

23. Play a game of four square or basketball with them. Go out on that playground.

24. Notice their emotions — especially their fears and worries that they may not verbalize.

25. Watch out for a change from their “normal” that lasts or intensifies that isn’t typical.

26. Set up a “hot line” box in your room for messages they can write to you if they don’t feel safe verbalizing.

27. Create classroom rituals that they will remember.

28. Use classroom meetings so you can hear their side.

29. Send a “good news” report home to their parents about their good behavior when deserved.

30. Point out their efforts.

31. Notice what they enjoy and comment on it.

32. Give them praise when it’s deserved.

33. Set boundaries that are fair and consistent so they know what to expect.

34. Don’t assume they know certain life skills (how to calm down, solve a problem) so teach them.

35. Honor their culture and background.

36. Welcome new members to your room recognizing their fear factor is probably high.

37. Watch for those who are hungry. Seek sustenance for them.

38. Provide your email address or a way to connect via social networking.

39. Announce that bullying and cruelty will not be tolerated and you want to know if they don’t feel safe.

40. Take time to celebrate accomplishments and hard work.

41. Make your room inviting and have a warm feel tone.

42. Give them space if they need it. Honor it.

43. Tune into their social connections to ensure they have a safety net.

44. Share your concerns about them with staff members who need to know. Find solutions.

45. Preserve their dignity-conference with them individually to share your concerns.

46. Find out why they’re excited.

47. Keep track of who you call on and interact with so you don’t leave them out.

48. Talk at eye level. Get to their level.

49. Discuss how they can improve–don’t assume they know.

50. Post stories of “good” events in the world so they know their world is a good place.

51. Wave or honk when you see they in or out of school.

52. Empower them to find solutions.

53. Encourage them to track their successes.

54. Keep them reading!!!

55. Help them learn that mistakes are learning opportunities.

56. Be the model you want them to copy.

57. Be genuine!

58. Encourage them to think big and find their dreams.

59. Connect them with a mentor.

60. Be available.

61. Trust them.

62. Expect them to be respectful.

63. Say “please” and “thank you” (and expect them to do the same).

64. Ask if they need help.

65. Role play how to make wise decisions.

66. Create a safe, caring environment.

67. Show and guide them on how to do a new task together before they try solo.

68. Ask how much they’re sleeping.

69. Encourage and then welcome their suggestions.

70. Teach them how to disagree respectfully.

71. Provide opportunities for them to learn to voice their thoughts and ideas.

72. Tell them what you expect of them.

73. Watch their stress levels–offer healthy ways to reduce stress.

74. Ask yourself how you’d like your students to remember you.

75. Chaperone their dance or athletic event.

76. Show them how to work their problems and conflicts.

77. Point out their learning styles.

78. Give them opportunities to shine.

79. Let them know you’re proud of them when they deserve recognition.

80. Be positive.

81. Ask them to help you.

82. Give immediate, helpful and dignified feedback.

83. Ask questions — then wait a few seconds to allow them to process.

84. Every once in a while-be flexible.

85. Try a home visit.

86. Inspire them to be creative and innovative.

87. Become their advocate if they need one.

88. Appreciate their individuality.

89. Notice what’s new — a friend, a backpack, shoes — about them.

90. Honor their nature.

91. Ask them how things are going at home.

92. Support them in crisis-a parent’s deployment, illness, job loss, death.

93. Let them know you care.

94. Express why education is valuable.

95. Empower them to seek ways to switch peer norms to “Kind is cool.”

96. Give them opportunities to “do good” (service, charity, volunteering).

97. Provide opportunities to find out personal interests about peers-break the cliques.

98. Watch for kids who aren’t in trouble but could be lying “below the radar.”

99. Know you are influential. Be a safety net or a hero to a child.

100. Do not give up!

Keep caring!

Michele Borba