‘Tis the season to give, give, give! Except, giving shouldn’t be seasonal and there are some really great ways to teach kids the kindness of giving throughout the year.
How to Teach Kids Charitable Giving
Build awareness around giving by pointing out examples when you see them occur in daily circumstances. You can be casual about it – if you notice someone being kind to someone else, just mention it to your kids. If your children are part of the act, whether as the giver or the receiver, point that out too. Ask them to notice how they feel or guess how the other person feels. Being able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes is a skill that will help them in positions of leadership, in relationships and in decision-making.
Also, did you know that witnessing an act of kindness is enough to increase the serotonin levels in your body? Serotonin is Nature’s anti-depressant and it’s what gives you the warm and fuzzies when you see good things happening. Great idea to get your kids noticing these acts. Win-win for everyone!
Talk About the Circle of Giving
As well-meaning parents who want our kids to appreciate what they have, we may say things like, “Eat your dinner – there are so many kids out there who don’t have enough to eat!” or “Those poor people. We should give them something because we have so much.” Unfortunately, there’s an underlying belief in those statements that can lead to feelings of guilt (in the people who ‘have’) and feelings of inadequacy (in the people who ‘have not’). Neither of these feelings are productive or beneficial. So instead, let’s look at giving for what it is: a circle where at any given time someone needs something AND has something to contribute. That could be you. That could be someone standing in line at the food bank. We each have special gifts, talents and skills, and we each have needs. When we are in a position to give, we give. When we are in a position to receive, we receive. In that simple switch in perspective, there is no longer a line dividing people! Giving and receiving become facts of life and our role is determined by our current circumstances.
This also teaches healthy boundaries and habits of self-care. Taking care of yourself is an act of kindness, so if that means you can’t give your energy to someone else in a particular moment, it’s ok. Let’s teach our kids that it’s important to show themselves some kindness!
Introduce Your Kids to Charities and Non-profits
Pick something your child is interested in. Perhaps it’s animals. Or maybe sports. Then find a charity or non-profit organization that incorporates that interest. Check out the SPCA’s website or SportAbility’s website with your child and read up on what the charity does. Then brainstorm some ways your child or your whole family can contribute to the cause. Gaining popularity is the birthday celebration that benefits a favourite charity, where donations are made to a cause in lieu of gifts. Volunteering your time is another way to experience giving in a formal way. Great way to spend a couple hours during the week together as a family, too!
If contributing to a charity is not in the cards at this time, introducing your kids to the idea that these groups exist is still extremely important! It’s about planting seeds for a time when giving is available, and also being inspired by the goodness of others.
Explain the Concept of Social Enterprise
There are many businesses whose model is rooted in social giving. For example, popular clothing brand tentree will plant 10 trees for every item of clothing purchased. Local to Vancouver is Modern Fort, an apparel and home décor company. Each month they highlight a charity or project that helps others; products sold during the month help raise funds and awareness for the selected cause. It’s important that we show our next generation of entrepreneurs that their creativity can include kindness, and that it is possible to build a heart-centred life. With more and more people melding creativity and business, it is easy to find social enterprises. Have fun searching, learning and being inspired!
Above All Else: Model Giving
None of the above will make a difference, or will feel authentic to you as a parent, if you don’t make giving a way of life for yourself. When you grocery shop with your kids, grab the $2 donation coupon for the local food bank and add it to your bill. Hold the door open for others. Smile at strangers. Buy someone a coffee. Do all these things as you might do any other ordinary task. It’s a beautiful way to live your legacy with your kids by your side.
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