Universal Children’s Day
Investing in our future means investing in children! What better day than November 20th, Universal Children’s Day, to acknowledge the importance of our children; not just to other adults but to the children themselves? Go ahead and hug a child in your life. Tell them they are important.
What Is Universal Children’s Day?
On December 14, 1954, the General Assembly at the United Nations recommended that all countries institute a children’s day to be observed internationally as a day of “worldwide fraternity and understanding between children.”
Even though some form of a children’s day is celebrated in many countries around the world, usually in June, Universal Children’s Day is international and takes place annually on November 20th. This date was chosen because it was the date in 1959 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and 1989 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty. It calls for many children’s rights including the right to life, to health, to education, to play, to family life, to be protected from violence, to not be discriminated against, and to have their views heard.
Why Celebrate Universal Children’s Day?
Everybody likes a holiday. If we are going to have a holiday to celebrate mothers and fathers, and even grandparents, why not one for children, too? Children are fun and bursting with life; of course a holiday celebrating that could only be a benefit to society.
However, Universal Children’s Day is a fun day with a serious message. Children are our future. As we learn more about psychology, it becomes more evident just how true this statement is. Childhood mistreatment, neglect, or abuse can have lifelong negative effects on physical and mental health that affect those children into adulthood, as well as everyone they interact with. Healthy children means a healthy future for society.
Universal Children’s Day is not just a day to celebrate children for who they are, but to bring awareness to children around the globe that have experienced violence in forms of abuse, exploitation, and discrimination. Children are used as laborers in some countries, immersed in armed conflict, living on the streets, and suffering due to differences among adults for religious, ethnic, or disability issues.
Currently, there are about 153 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 who are forced into child labor. It is estimated that 300,000 children are today fighting as child soldiers in over 20 countries worldwide. Children rely on adults for everything from food to shelter to education and it is imperative that their rights be heard if they are to develop into a generation of contentious world citizens.
We want to build a world where every child has access to education, is safe from harm, and is able to fulfill their potential. If this can happen, it will have exponentially positive effects on the whole of humanity and ripple into the generations to come. Children who are loved, honored, and taken care of become adults who do the same for their own children.
Six Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Universal Children’s Day
Now that we have established the importance of children and a holiday that celebrates them, you may wonder what you can do to celebrate Universal Children’s Day.
1. Learn About the Rights Children
There are many resources about this holiday on the internet. To celebrate, why not learn about the Children’s Rights by reading about the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child? You can find these documents with a quick search on the UN website.
While it’s important for adults to learn about the rights of children, it’s even better if you can share them with children. The UNICEF website also has a child-friendly version of The Rights Of Children. UNICEF hosts a fascinating collection of cartoons on the website, and these short animations identify the rights of the child. The great benefit of using these animations is that you share them with children of any academic or language level. There is also a collection of videos, many of them animated, on YouTube about Children’s rights.
2. Teach Children About Kids in Another Community
If you have a child or children in your life, take the time to sit with them and help them learn about kids in less developed nations or kids that face dangers to their health or wellness or have impediments to their right to an education. If your town or local school has a sister city in place to promote cultural ties, you may consider focusing there.
Take into consideration the age of the child you are speaking with, as some issues may be too intense for very young children. Important concerns that are appropriate to all ages include childhood poverty or lack of access to education.
A great way to help children connect with others around the world is to look for a pen pal program with children in the region you’re focusing on. This will better allow kids to connect to the concepts you are addressing. The child’s local school may have a pen pal program, but if you just do a quick internet search, you will find a range of pen pal organizations and other resources.
3. Read With Children
Reading is fundamental. In fact, it is one of the most important ingredients to becoming all that you can be. Research says it develops the brain, provides a window into the world around us, and helps children do better in all school subjects. Reading can not only help children become better students, but better people, too. It’s not just research, but also common sense and personal experience that says that reading is empowering.
Reading stories together is the easiest way to help children learn about emotions or prepare them for difficult life situations. Helping children become good readers and develop reading comprehension skills is one of the biggest gifts we can give to a child in their life. As Margaret Fuller once said, “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”
4. Support Children’s Volunteer Opportunities
Get kids into the community! Helping kids make a positive local impact is another great gift you can give. Most children want to be a helpful member of the community, and there are a lot of things kids can do. They could clean up litter from a creek or beach, visit a nursing home, or perhaps support a local or national initiative that has the goal of fostering the health, wellness, and learning in youth.
If you can’t find a program near you to allocate volunteer work, you can start a fun fundraiser or even a food drive for the local homeless shelter for families. You can organize bake sales, recycling drives, and walk-a-thons, too.
5. Support an Organization That Helps Children
Fortunately, many organizations help children. Find a great organization you can get behind and become a member, or simply give them a donation. If you want to support local children, find an organization that helps foster children or helps failing children get their grades up.
Nationally, the Ronald McDonald House helps seriously ill or injured children. No Kid Hungry aims to end child hunger in America. The Children’s Defense Fund aims to “ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.”
Some great international organizations that help children that are seriously at risk are Save the Children, UNICEF, and Children International.
6. Become a Mentor
Particularly for youth, a healthy mentoring relationship can be critical to achieving academic and personal goals. Studies indicate that mentored children demonstrate increases in confidence and performance as well as decreases in risky behavior. There are many locally run mentoring programs across the United States, but you can also look at a national program like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
While the above are great ways to celebrate Universal Children’s Day, sometimes just taking the time to listen to or give a hug to a child in your life can go a long way. The most important thing is for children to feel loved and feel like they matter. Universal Children’s Day is a day we should all make sure we are giving enough love and attention to the children in our lives.
Many children don’t even know that the holiday exists, so spread the word; the world will be a better place for it. One sure way to invest in the future is to invest in the people who will live in it: OUR CHILDREN!
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