|Two girls participate in Seeds of Peace, www.seedsofpeace.org, an organization that nurtures friendships among teens from areas of conflict.
Photo by Clemens Kalisher
- Make room for peace at home. Outer peace begins with inner peace. Children and adults need special places that give them a sense of privacy and peace, and that can serve as a quiet refuge for times when hurt or angry feelings might lead to violent words or actions. It could be a room or just a corner, where any family member can go for quiet reflection or to work through turbulent feelings.
- Find peace in nature. Turn off the television and the computer and go outside. Take children for a walk or let them explore nature in their own way. The beauty of nature is a great balm to the soul.
- Make time for creative play. Young children need plenty of time for unstructured, creative play. Research indicates that make-believe social play in particular reduces aggression and increases empathy in children. Choose children's toys carefully, avoiding those that encourage or glorify violence.
- Engage children's hands and hearts. Young children need a direct, hands-on experience of giving. They love to make things, small and large—their own cards, tree ornaments, cookies, or bread—for neighbors, family, or friends. They can learn to enjoy sorting through their own things and even giving away some treasured possessions to others in need, if it is part of a family tradition.
- Establish a “family foundation.”Create a homemade bank for donations—a miniature family foundation. Parents, children, visitors, and friends can put money in the bank. Children can be introduced to tithing when they receive gifts, earnings, or allowance. Choose a charity together —one that has personal meaning for the children especially—to give to. As the children mature, talk to them more about the needs of the world and ways to help.
- Support peace education at school. Urge your school to establish or strengthen peace education and conflict resolution programs. Contact Educators for Social Responsibility (www.esrnational.org) or the National Peace Foundation (www.nationalpeace.org) for ideas. Encourage older students to study a conflict-ridden area of the world, looking at it from two or more perspectives. They'll learn that every conflict has many layers and that to build peace one must work respectfully with all sides.
- Face local needs. Help children become comfortable with the people in your community who need help—the elderly, the disabled, the poor. Starting in middle school, students benefit enormously from working in hospitals, soup kitchens, animal shelters, and the like. This can be especially effective for young people who are growing up in socially and economically stressed neighborhoods.
- Make a difference in the world. Help young people find active ways of working for peace, the preservation of the natural world, the relief of human suffering, or other concerns, through organizations like Kids Can Make a Difference (www.kidscanmakeadifference.org.), Free the Children (www.freethechildren.org), Roots and Shoots (www.janegoodall.org), or Peace Jam, in which students work directly with Nobel Peace Laureates (www.peacejam.org).