Even though your kids will love to spend their money on themselves, their funds also can pave the way for something that is priceless—the experience and self-gratification that comes from giving to others. With a little effort, you can ease your youngsters into charity work and donation in a way that feels natural to them and inspires them to a lifetime of compassion.
- Encourage sharing as early as possible.
Sharing toys, books and other items is a great way for even the youngest toddlers to practice giving up something they have. The big difference between this activity and charity is that, in most cases, your children can get the shared item back. Focus here on the fact that giving up total control of the items for a short time results in a pleasant experience, such as the ability to play a game with another child.
- Have your child donate items they have.
Every few months or so, go through your child’s clothes, toys and books with them. Talk about how much fun they had with those items, but discuss how proud you are that they are growing, learning and exploring new things. Then talk about how many children don’t know what it’s like to have the joy your kid has had. Tell your child it would be a nice thing to do if they picked out some of their older, good-condition items to give away. Keep the emphasis on how happy the recipient of the items will be, rather than on exactly what will be donated. Once your child is comfortable with donating their older used goods, challenge them to donate at least one thing they still really enjoy playing with.
- Have your child donate items they buy with you.
Up to this point, money hasn’t really been necessary for your child to donate. Now, though, it’s time to show your child that there is often a personal monetary cost associated with giving. Your child probably won’t have a ton of income at this point, so offer to split the cost of the item, or guide them through the saving process. Research good purchase options with your child but allow them to make the final call on what their money goes to. Through this step, model charitable buying independent of what your child decides to give.
- Have your child volunteer with you.
Everything your child has done for charity up to this point has been “faceless,” meaning that they don’t necessarily know exactly who will receive their donation or have a full grasp of the impact their giving has. To connect your child with the result of their work on a more personal level, take them to events or venues where they can help others one on one. For instance, have them cook and deliver some treats for elderly neighbors, or have them help you clean rooms at a homeless shelter. Be diverse in what you do so your child gets a taste of how many ways they can connect and form new relationships with those in need.
- Have your child donate and do volunteer work on their own.
By this step, your child should have all the skills they need to give their time, money or other resources. They just need practice taking control about how, when, to whom and in what amount to give. Set some reasonable goals for your child to reach to keep them motivated and show them that it’s always possible to open their heart a little bigger, even if logistical challenges happen to come along the way. A good goal might be working five extra charity hours in the next month or getting details on at least one local charity they haven’t given to yet. As your child makes selections about what to do and who should benefit from their work or funds, talk to them about why they decided to give as they did.
Kids can get a start with charitable giving or work very early in life. In fact, the earlier you get them practicing giving-related tasks, the better, as it helps them feel comfortable with and see what they can gain from the process. These steps can pave the way for your child to develop a real desire to share themselves and what they have.