Following a particularly combative election and a series of natural disasters throughout the world, many parents are seeking ways to bring the spirit of giving to their families. More than ever, people are reaching into their pockets to offer relief for a variety of causes. Yet the concept of handing money to others, particularly in the form of checks or credit cards, is too abstract for most children to understand. Here are some tips for teaching your children philanthropic values so that they can enjoy the self-confidence that stems from giving back either locally or globally all year long.
Children are natural givers, so begin teaching them about charitable giving between the years of three to five. During these formative years, they are much more receptive to helping others if you present it as a family value. If young children watch important adults in their lives give with joy, over time they will begin to model this behavior.
Think of generous acts you can do that make the process of giving more tangible than, say, handing over an annual $100.
Some suggestions include:
- Building food baskets for people in need
- Donating clothing
- helping elders with household chores
- Offering to take pets on walks for a local animal shelter or disabled neighbor
Tap Into Technology
Since kids today live in a “wired” world, parents have the chance to expose their children to philanthropy in a very modern way, using innovative tools and games that help connect the world together. Encourage your child to use their talents and passions to make the world a better place.
Consider using online apps and websites to help underscore the importance of giving. Sites like Tykoon help kids build a virtual piggy bank where some of the money goes to others.
Raise Awareness Through Reading
Charity-focused books and websites can provide stories about giving and sharing. They also offer children a glimpse at what other young people are doing to help others. Sharing books with children provides the opportunity to explore the ideas and issues of compassion and need, the feelings behind giving, and the meaning of gifts. A few of the books we like include:
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein: This short story is a tale about the selfless services an apple tree offers a growing boy. The tree allows the boy to sell her apples for money, use her branches to build a home, and use her as a bench a sit on. Author Silverstein shows children (and adults!) the benefits of selfless giving.
- The Giving Book by Ellen Sabin: An interactive and entertaining book, The Giving Book teaches children about giving and lets them plan their philanthropic journey.
- The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need by Jan and Stan Berenstain: The Berenstain family decides they need to clean out their house and give away their old belongings. The young bears learn that their outgrown items can benefit others in need.
Let Them Choose
The most effective way to motivate children to donate time or belongings is to have them invested in the cause. When parents allow children to direct their giving, they’re able to see a child’s interests and passions emerge.
Above all, remember that it isn’t about the amount of money a child gives or the number of hours devoted. The hope is to inspire the value of charitable giving that extends into later life.