For some people being charitable comes to them naturally. They seem to almost be born with the gift of empathy, and always seem to know when to help and the why for them is innate. But for many learning to be charitable is not a natural gift, and in raising my own children I wanted to make sure that if it was not a natural gift, that it was at the very least a learned one that they could incorporate into their adult lives to help them become well-rounded individuals. Because being charitable I believe is an important lesson to me to teach my children, I am constantly looking for new ways to teach them this skill. Here are a few ways to Teach Children to be Charitable that I’ve discovered over the years.
Help children make giving to charity a habit.
When my children were old enough to get an allowance we set up a very particular system. My children were required to divide up their allowance into three categories, spending, savings and charity. Every year at the end of the year, December, my kids got to pick a charity that was relevant to them to donate their money to. Not surprisingly they most of the time picked charities that were relevant to them. For example they loved to use their money to adopt an angel off of the Angel Tree, a gift giving charity organized by the Salvation Army. They would pick a child the same age and sex that they were at the time, and they carefully took the time to think about what they would want if they were like these less financially fortunate children. And I could see them really getting something out of that charitable experience, if only giving them to think about how lucky they were to be able to have the life that they have.
Tell children your stories about the importance of charity.
Our Angel Tree shopping trip has become a yearly tradition for my family, and I’ll never forget the year that I saw the understanding of the impact she was making really click for my daughter. You see my own mother came from a family with very little means. She had many holidays in which they barely had enough to eat and dress themselves, let alone receive holiday gifts from their own parents. So a few years ago while we were shopping we started to include my mother, who also has always adopted children and elderly angels for the Angel tree over the years, in these trips. On one of our first shopping trips together my mother made a simple comment to my daughter about how she knew exactly how it felt to be that kid on the block waking up Christmas morning to nothing. You could see as she told her own story to my daughter, that the importance of what my daughter was doing really clicked within her young mind. You could see her putting a face on the children she was shopping for, and the face was her beloved grandmother. To this day my daughter really takes the time to think about the people that she is giving to whenever she decides what to do with her preciously saved allowance.
Teach children to notice those in the world around them who could use charity and kindness.
There are always people around you that could use your kindnesses, whether they be friends, neighbors, or complete strangers. Every time I notice someone who could use some help I take the opportunity to talk to my daughter about what these friends might be needing, and what could we do to help them. Through these lessons my daughter has learned to create care packages for friends in hospitals, cook for neighbors experiencing a crisis, and donating time to do things like shoveling snow from driveways and sidewalks for our more elderly neighbors. Through these acts of kindness, my children are learning that the world around them includes them and does not revolve around them. Teaching them to give of their time and money helps them to become a greater part of society which is an important aspect necessary to become a more charitable person.
Involve your children in extracurricular groups that involve them in charity.
I am a runner, and I like to run in various races around town. I find that it motivates me to keep running, but at the same time I know that every race that I enter, a portion of my running fees goes to whatever charity that race is representing. A couple of month’s ago my daughter and I signed up to run the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Now lets suffice it to say that my daughter? She does not enjoy running. (That might be the understatement of the year.) So about a half a mile into the 5K, she started complaining. I initially started trying to motivate her with typical you can do this type of talk. But then I mentioned briefly the sign that she was wearing on her back, “In Celebration Of Aunt Bev and Aunt Brenda.”She started to ask questions about why we run these races, why that sign was on her back, and she started making connections that these races were bigger than just her and her run. Her whining about running stopped for a while, (Yes. Only a while. She really hates to run.) and later that day I heard her proudly talking to her father about running for the moms and daughters who no longer were able to run. The experience of the extracurricular activity had had an important impact.
Teaching your children to be charitable is an important financial lesson to teach your children. What are some other ways that you are teaching your children to be charitable?
Image courtesy of [Clare Bloomfield] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net