With the holidays quickly approaching, we are reminded to be thankful and celebrate the positivity in our lives. There’s always an emphasis on sharing and giving as November rolls around. Just as we should teach our children how to care for themselves, it’s important to give our children opportunities to be charitable and giving to others too. Teaching the importance of giving back at a young age will impact your child for a lifetime. Here are the best ways to go about it.
Most people tend to associate charity with giving money. Young children might have trouble understanding such an abstract concept as donating money to a worthy cause. Sometimes it’s hard to understand the value of money at a young age. It may be more effective to encourage your children experience charitable giving firsthand. “Even a preschooler can help a parent bag lunches for a soup kitchen, distribute socks to the people in a homeless shelter, or clean an elderly neighbor’s yard. And as children grow, so do their opportunities for making a difference.”
When choosing a project, you might consider your child’s own interest. This way he or she will be more involved. The more you let her direct the process, the greater the involvement she’ll feel and the more she’ll learn from the experience.
Put Their Money Where Your Mouth Is
Offering your child an allowance is a great way to teach the value of money, spending versus saving, need versus want, work ethic, responsibility, or tithing, etc., but it’s also a great way to introduce the idea of charitable giving. By designating a portion of allowance for a worthy cause you can show your child that your family believes in sharing with those who are less fortunate.
“What you encourage your child to do with the money is key too. Instead of simply giving cash to a worthy organization once he has accumulated a reasonable amount, suggest that he use the money to buy a toy for a poor child or socks for a homeless person or some other item needed by someone in serious straits. Then take him to deliver it. “
Seize the Moment
“You don’t need to set aside a special time to talk about the importance and joy of giving. Opportunities pop up all the time. Passing a homeless person on the street, for example, might be a good occasion to talk about the fact that some families don’t have enough money to pay for a place to live. Visiting an elderly or ailing relative might be the right moment to discuss how important it is to reach out to people in need.” Teach your child the she has the opportunity to make a difference.
Practice What You Preach
“As with everything else in life, kids learn best by example. You don’t have to entertain your child with tales of your charitable works or keep him glued to your side while you serve meals in a soup kitchen to prove that you care too. But neither should you hide everyday acts of kindness. If you’re taking a meal to a friend who has just gotten out of the hospital, say so. If you help raise funds for worthy causes through your church, temple, or local community group, talk about it. If you give money to an organization you believe in, explain why doing so is important to you.
By talking about to whom and how you give, you not only show your kids the importance of giving itself, but you’re sharing your values about the issues that matter most to your family — whether you’re passionate about supporting the arts, cleaning up the environment, assisting the elderly, or helping to alleviate poverty and homelessness. Do not worry about exposing young children to painful experiences that might haunt them later, the joy inherent in giving far outweighs any sadness they may encounter.”
Family Charity Ideas
Consider the following activities to introduce your child to charitable giving.
You probably need to clean them out anyway—so why not periodically go through your closet and donate any unwanted clothes to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or the local clothing drive at your church. Get the kids involved while you sort through their clothes and ask them to collect some toys for donation.
The possibilities are endless for helping out a neighbor. Rake leaves for elderly neighbors; ask if they need any jobs done around the house. Bake cookies for the mailman or for a local shelter. Have the kids help you shovel driveways and sidewalks after a winter storm.
Bring the kids with you next time you go to donate blood. Make sure you talk to them about why you chose to donate blood and how your donation will help someone else.
Make birthdays charitable.
We’ve had some of our families do this and send donations to our birthmother gift card drive in exchange for presents at a birthday party. It’s a great way to show others the power of giving. Instead of asking guests at a birthday party to bring a present for your child, suggest that they bring a canned good, books or gift card for a local charity fundraiser or organization.
Change for a difference.
Make a special jar that can be used by the whole family to hold extra change or “donations” throughout the year. When the jar gets full, allow the children to help decide if you want to donate money to a charity or purchase a gift that can be donated. This is a great way to teach kids that even the small things can make a big difference.
You can read more about teaching your child charitable giving at Parenting.com