Each child should learn the importance of giving back, a lesson that will stay with him or her for a lifetime. Giving our children the opportunity to build character and become excellent human beings is one of the responsibilities and the pleasures of being a parent. Not to take away from the importance of this lesson for our children in the future, encouraging children to give back also has the added bonus of eliminating much of the “gimmies” for us parents, right here and now.
Did you know that kids are instinctual givers? They are proud to give of themselves, which any parent who has received tons of homemade artwork knows first hand. Giving is fun for kids, and parents can use this fact to make charity fun for the whole family.
Explain to children that there are two ways to give back. We can give of our time and we can give of our money. One shouldn’t be exclusive of the other. In other words, we can and should give of both time and money. We can give as individuals and we can give as a family. Children should be encouraged to set aside some of their own allowance or birthday money for charitable causes.
Help your child children choose charities that get them excited. Children usually identify well with animals and other children, so you might want to start there. There are many valuable causes that a little research can uncover. Your child’s school or town may have its own charitable community drives that your family can tap into.
Make it a game to find new ways to give. Sometimes a need is right under our noses, and it can be fun to identify that need and then do something about it. An idea for giving back could come from a magazine article, a television show, a story in a book or just observing another family at the park. Provide some guidance and veto power, but encourage your children to come up the ways to give back that they feel passionate about. If they can’t come up with anything on their own, make some simple suggestions, such as donating some of their toys to a needy child, participating in a park clean up, etc.
Hands on giving works well for kids, for example, filling a shoebox of toys for a needy child, going shopping together for an extra backpack and school supplies, or baking cookies to take to an elderly neighbor all easy ways that kids can give back.
Finally, since children learn what they see, make sure that the adults in the family are modeling the practice of giving back. Easy ways to do this include volunteering where your children can catch you in the act, such as at church or school. Write out checks for charities that you support and have your children help address the envelopes or paste on the stamps so the impression stays with them.