Meet Our April 2017 Guest Editor: Kelley Parris, Executive Director of The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County
My life’s journey has taken me from a poverty-stricken area of west Alabama to an exciting life in New York. I moved to Tampa in 2013 and since then, have been welcomed and touched by some of the most gracious individuals to have ever entered my life. I love Tampa!
The residents of Tampa Bay are passionate about this area being the number one place in the nation to raise children. Residents here know that there are some basic gifts that we can give our children to sustain them throughout life: the gift of empathy, effective communication skills and a love of reading.
Children begin to develop empathy as early as six months of age. The way we look at each other, speak to our partners and treat those less fortunate all build on the development of empathy in children. Begin early talking to your children about emotional states of being—happiness, sadness, surprise, anger—and help your child to recognize these emotions in themselves and others. Find opportunities to talk to your child about the happy moments in life as well as the sad. We lived on a working farm during my child’s formative years so he was able to experience all of those emotions through the natural life-cycle of animals. It matters little if it is a butterfly or a calf; we can all find those opportunities.
The gift of words, of developing communication skills and a strong vocabulary, will stay with children all the days of their lives. Being able to communicate one’s emotions, expectations, strengths and weaknesses are important to all of our relationships. Children develop communication skills at their own pace but being able to articulate their feelings in a meaningful way will reduce the frustration often associated with language development.
I grew up in a very rural area of the Deep South and know firsthand that reading can create an escape that instills hope and builds dreams. Reading opens the world to all possibilities. My favorite book of all time is the “Grapes of Wrath” and the words in that novel helped shape my life today. You never know what will make the difference in the life of a child but these three tools will make it richer, deeper and easier to navigate.
Did I say I love Tampa?