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Growing up, holidays were always some of my favourite times of the year. From making elaborate birthday cakes to freezing our toes choosing a Christmas tree, lighting the Hannukah candles to painting Easter eggs by candlelight, so many wonderful childhood memories were created from the traditions we enjoyed as a family. When I became a mother, bringing these family traditions into my home was so important to me, as was beginning new traditions that my kids would cherish as I do.

When my daughter was 3 and December rolled around, I noticed a gap in our family traditions and the way we prepared for the holidays. We had beautiful traditions around food, music, crafting and of course gifts, all of which she could enjoy and take part in, even at her young age. And while we adults made charitable donations during the holiday season, as my family had done growing up, there was no tangible way that my young daughter could participate in these traditions of giving. By the age of 3, she had already mastered the idea of getting, so it was important for me to balance that idea with the concept of giving as well as the larger meaning of the holidays.

So that year, a new family tradition was born as we made our first “My Kindness Calendar”. With construction paper and painter's tape, we mounted a tree on the wall surrounded by kind ideas, each accompanied by a simple picture so she could recognize the idea, without yet being able to read the words. As with a traditional advent calendar, we would use the calendar daily in December, but instead of getting a toy or candy, she would choose an act of kindness we would do together. Sometimes she would even come up with her own ideas. It was something we looked forward to each day, and gave me an easy and accessible way to start important conversations about helping others, being kind, and other topics I wanted to discuss.

Having spent years overseeing youth empowerment and leadership programs across the country, I have seen countless young people make action plans to create change and practice kindness in their communities. Key to making My Kindness Calendar engaging for kids was the ability for kids to define and customize their experience as they come up with a daily action plan, instead of just doing what is asked or required. As my daughter carefully chose an action to do every day that aligned with her mood and interests, I knew she was building personal accountability and would be even more proud when we completed the task, since it was something that she had chosen to do herself. And it worked!

But My Kindness Calendar isn’t just about Christmas - stay tuned for more calendars in 2018! And it’s not just for kids. It is a concept. Focussing on kindness and encouraging people young and old to build and strengthen their “giving” muscles by practicing daily acts of kindness is necessary to raise kind kids and to be role models as adults. Through My Kindness Calendar, we love honing these skills as a family and have enjoyed so many beautiful moments together. I hope you will too!

Maran Stern-Kubista
Founder, My Kindness Calendar

Read more about me and why kindness is so important in our household in my recent interview with The Global Guardian Project. Click here to read the article.