It’s hard for kids to learn the concept of giving to others. Depending on their age, their sense of self is still developing and empathy for others can be difficult to wrap their minds around.
But still, my kids have SO much. I really want them to understand that not everyone lives the way they do, not everyone takes the same things for granted, not everyone has the option of being “bored” when surrounded by toys and games.
It’s been important to me to introduce my kids to giving and empathy for others. I do not want to raise entitled kids. At the same time I don’t want to deprive them of things I’m reasonably able to give them just to teach a lesson either, so I came up with 7 ways to teach them to be charitable and appreciative.
Kids and Charity
- Donate to a Charity – Find a local charity that helps families with kids and donate to them. Either adopt a family from a giving tree or donate generally to the charity for distribution as needed. Have the kids help you shop and go with you to donate. Seeing how few things the kids their ages are asking for and/or receiving will go a long way to the kids understanding that the things they take for granted – socks, shoes, jackets – aren’t true for all kids.
2. Give a Gift to Charity – My kids get waaaay too many presents for Christmas, especially now that we’re divorced and they have two celebrations. After they’ve torn through all the wrapping paper and are admiring their stash, consider having them choose one of the gifts they just received and donating it to charity. I recommend you limit their selection to gifts you purchased or those from people that won’t notice or care that you’ve given away their gift. Also important – You have complete veto power! On Christmas morning, while the kids are surrounded by their gifts, it’s a great time to remind them everyone isn’t so fortunate.
3. Volunteer Together – My kids and I periodically volunteer together via an organization called Volunteers of America. They have a monthly family friendly volunteer activity that you are welcome to participate in with kids of all ages. The kids have a great time, are exposed to the idea of giving of yourself, and you meet really interesting and engaging people. We’ve delivered Baskets of Joy to homebound seniors, decorated for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. dinner for the homeless, handed out water to the runners in the annual 7K fundraiser, and helped collect and distribute school supplies to children in need. I found this organization using www.volunteermatch.org. Great website for finding charities that fit your interests and abilities.
4. Choose a Cause – Ask them to think of something that they’ve heard about and want to change. It’s an excuse to talk about world events with your kids too. It could be making snowflakes for Sandy Hook. It could be raising donations for the local animal shelter. It may be helping knit scarves for the homeless. It really doesn’t much matter. The most important thing is that it’s something that THEY pick out and are interested in changing. It teaches them to be charitable while at the same time empowering them to change things in their world that they don’t like.
5. Kiva.Org – Kiva is a micro loan program that loans money to various applicants in poor countries (typically) to give them a hand UP rather than a hand out. You can make a loan for only $25. Have THE KIDS choose who to loan the money to. Best part? When the loan is repaid they get to do it all over again without having to add any more money.
6. Be Mindful – Challenge your kids to be on the lookout for ways to be kind to others and help them out. At dinner (or whenever works for you), go around the table and have each person talk about what they did that day to help another person. If the kids didn’t do anything that day, take the opportunity to discuss small ways someone helped brighten your day – they smiled at you, let you in a lane of traffic, bought you lunch, offered to help with your work. Whatever it happens to be, point out ways that even the little things impact a person’s day. It gets the kids thinking of approachable ways they can make someone’s day better and also helps them appreciate when people do things that make their days better.
7. Give Gifts – I don’t believe kids should just get presents without any consideration for giving them too. I have all my kids buy or make presents for everyone in the immediate family for Christmas. Even when they were 2, they could still pick out items at the Dollar Store for other people. They earn their own money, whether from doing extra jobs around the house (shining shoes is a great one this time of year or cleaning out drawers) or save their birthday money. They get so proud of the gifts they buy and pick out, it’s great!
Any other ways you’ve taught your kids to be charitable?