A Conversation With Jennifer Garner on Save the Children With AdviceMama

Filed under: Celeb Parents, Celeb News & Interviews

jennifer garner save the children

Jennifer Garner picks veggies with kids to kick off Frigidaire's Kids' Cooking Academy Summer Session in support of Save the Children. Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris, Getty Images for Frigidaire

As ParentDish's AdviceMama, I'm privileged to hear from parents around the world who are trying to do their best for their children. Whether the question is about getting a son to try harder on his homework, or helping a daughter handle problems with friends, I am touched by how dedicated our readers are to helping their children thrive and succeed in life.

For some children, however, these kinds of issues are secondary to more pressing challenges. In the United States, one out of six children lives in poverty. Save the Children is an organization that is taking practical steps to address the needs of children in these disadvantaged situations.

Recently, I spoke with actress Jennifer Garner, the artistic ambassador for Save the Children, as well as a passionate advocate of helping ensure all children are given the head start in life they deserve. I came away from our conversation with a painful awareness of the gap between children growing up in middle classes and those living below the poverty line. But I also felt hopeful, and inspired to do more -- especially with the many opportunities available for us to help close that gap.

As we began talking, Garner told me when a child grows up in poverty, by the time he or she is 4 years old, the child is developmentally 18 months behind. And, statistics show, children who are not kindergarten-ready are unlikely to graduate from high school.

"We all love our kids and we all want to do a good job," Garner says. "It doesn't take money to be a good mother, but it does take someone showing you what to do. We simply aren't born with that knowledge."

Garner says she understands that early childhood education isn't about trying to teach preschoolers how to read.

"The brain has to learn how to learn," she says. "These children may not even know what letters are; they may have never even held a book."

U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) recently introduced a bill that would increase funding of early childhood education to include a year of pre-kindergarten across the country.

"For every $1 we invest in high-quality early childhood development programs, our society sees a return of $16," Mikulski, chairwoman of the HELP Subcommittee on Children and Families, says in a press release announcing the legislation.

Garner tells me that if we can increase money distributed to early childhood education on the federal and state levels -- as well as through corporations such as Frigidaire, who participate in a fundraising efforts for Save the Children -- we can reach kids from birth to break the cycle of poverty through education.

Gowalla, a mobile phone application, offers yet another way to participate: When you visit your local farmer's market, simply check in through the app and Frigidaire will donate a dollar toward its $500,000 commitment to Save the Children.

Finally, you can sponsor a child at Savethechildren.org and keep track of how your small contribution is making a practical difference in the life of the child you're helping.

As Garner put it, you'll see pictures of "your" child -- often from a town not far from your own -- and realize how much he or she looks like your own son or daughter.

"It makes the problem -- and the solution -- real and human," she says.

AdviceMama, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles, is available on Amazon. Sign up to get Susan's free parenting newsletter.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.