Editor’s Note: Learning how to be charitable is such an important life lesson for kids, and there are many opportunities for cultivating generosity and empathy towards others throughout the year. Recently, I read a story about Burmese refugee children who lost all their possessions in a tragic fire last month. After they escaped the unrest in their home country and sought sanctuary in Thailand, four of the dormitories that served as housing burned down in a raging fire. Thankfully, no lives were lost, but the children have once again been displaced and all their personal possessions destroyed. It’s so easy to grow accustomed to a certain standard of living and take everyday amenities for granted—a warm home, a blanket, clothes, food, etc., so sharing these stories and teaching kids to help others in need can also awaken them to real situations around the world and remind them to always be thankful. In the spirit of giving back this spring, we’re sharing an old guest post with some great ideas for teaching kids to be charitable!
By Anita Reid
Parents today face completely new challenges that had not burdened previous generations—sheltering their kids from the disruptive influence of all-present mass media, from the hollow and superficial views and values advertised as prestigious and normal, while hoping to instill true, lasting human values that should lead the kids through life once they are inevitably left to their own devices. How should you explain to a kid what is right and what he or she should strive for in life?
Actually, it would be much easier and more effective to show your child what it is that you as a parent want them to strive for, and to enable them to feel a certain emotion so that they really know what to look for in later life. One of the best ways to help your kids adopt certain universal human values is to share with them the joy of giving through charity work. Here are some tips on how to make them interested in charity.
1. Be Honest
Sometimes it is just easier to tell you child something that will make him do what you want rather than the truth. This will not work if you want your kids to truly take an interest in charity.
Also, just taking them to a place where they will be nothing more than extras will not do. Kids aren’t much for appearances. They have to feel they are helping in order for them to really get interested in charity work, and remember they can call your bluff from a mile away. Make no mistake—they will realize they are just decorations if you take them to a soup kitchen bustling with volunteers, where they wouldn’t be much useful in the first place.
Treat your kids with respect and give them an opportunity to contribute, and they will not disappoint you. Otherwise, they will simply lose interest, like kids so easily do.
2. Give out Old Clothes
Children grow out of their clothes very quickly and there will always be something in the back of their closet, which is in great condition and ripe for giving. Encourage them to choose and pack what they will give, and let them actually give the clothes to another kid.
There is nothing more powerful if you wish to teach your kids the value of charity than to enable them to truly feel the joy of giving something personally to another human being in need, especially knowing it is something they themselves do not need.
Kids have great capacity for empathy and this will come naturally to them. You just need to give them the opportunity and encourage them to go through with it and overcome their shyness.
3 Helping Out
Talk with your kids about the differences some small, seemingly insignificant gesture on their part can make in someone’s life. Make sure they understand, for example, how much it means to the old man next door for someone to bring him groceries or help him out with the chores once in a while.
Do not order them to do it, as it will just have the opposite effect. The point is for them to learn to notice such opportunities to help people around them and to have a desire to do so, which will not happen by forcing them. They will just do what you told them without thinking about it. When they do help someone out in such a way, sit them down and have them tell you how it made them feel.
4. Having Fun
It doesn’t all have to be about giving. You can play a charity lottery in which you can win a house, a car or something similar.
If a charity organizes these events, all the proceeds would go to a good cause. So playing the lottery just for the prize still helps.
Playing a lottery of this kind might actually be a good way to introduce your children to charity, as it is not completely altruistic and doesn’t require them to give something up right off the bat.
5. Organize Charity Events
Organizing or visiting local events like garage sales and such is a great way to show your children how much difference they can make with very little effort.
Rewards don’t have to be big; that is not the point. You can just organize a lottery where the prize is a voucher for a local supermarket and have your neighbors pitch in. Again, be sure to discuss this with your kids and to explain to them how this works. Remember that what seems obvious to us can be a mystery to them, so make sure they understand what you are doing and your reasons for doing so.
Charity work is one of the best ways for your children to adopt the right values in a world where greed is considered perfectly normal and accumulating material possessions is becoming a socially acceptable goal in its own right. However, do not force them or trick them into charity work—they will hate it.
Anita is a mother of two girls and a wife to a wonderful husband. She works as a freelance social media manager, but in her spare time she enjoys spending time off the screen as much as possible.