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Inspired by this new “global day of giving back” #GivingTuesday (much preferable to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in my opinion), I started thinking about what we as parents could do to encourage our children to give. Raising a generous child seems like a noble goal, but how exactly do you go about it?
I don’t claim to be an expert in generosity or parenting. But I do have a few ideas to share that might help. Maybe you do, too.
Show, don’t tell.
We know kids learn how to act by watching how their parents behave more than what we tell them. So be the generous grownup you wish to see your kids become. Don’t guilt them into giving. Just give freely to others, and show your kiddos how good it feels. Being generous is fun!
Start ’em young.
I started bringing my kids along when I volunteered, donated goods or supported social causes while they were still in bucket seats. (Granted, it was usually dropping off items at Good Will or going to meetings, but still.) As they grew, I’d involve them as much as was age-appropriate. Now my kids understand that helping others and being generous is just “what you do,” so as they grow up, I hope they’ll continue living by this code.
Find meaningful ways kids can give.
Last summer, my daughter earned some money (maybe around $2) selling lemonade at the end of our driveway. She said she wanted to donate the money “to help animals who had seizures.”
Now around that same time, our aging dog had been suffering from grand mal seizures and we were all quite worried about it. (He’s medicated and fine now.) But it makes sense that she made the connection between a personal experience—our dog’s illness—and her ability to help (i.e., donating to a related charity).
Here are some neat ways children can give to others. See if any of these might appeal to your kiddos and let the generosity flow:
I happen to know the lady who launched this very cool initiative. Beth Nowak is a Cincinnati mom and former kindergarten teacher who wanted to find ways for families to practice generosity together. So she created GOOD Mail Challenges, which are fun, easy activities that make the world a better place.
The printed challenge gets mailed to your child, you can do the activity together, then share your experience online. An annual subscription includes 12 monthly challenges, plus access to online support materials like “What to Know Before You Go!” tips and printable downloads. Check out this example of a GOOD Mail Challenge:
I like this one a lot, and not just because “A Charlie Brown Christmas” happens to be my all-time favorite TV Christmas special, either. You and your family can become “blanketeers,” providing new, handmade, washable blankets to be given as gifts to seriously ill and traumatized children, ages 0-18. All blanket styles are welcome, including quilts, tied comforters, fleece blankets, crocheted or knitted afghans, and receiving blankets in child-friendly colors. You’ll find lots of patterns and ideas on their website, including this easy no-sew fleece blanket.
This national, non-profit organization has been matching volunteer sponsors from across the United States with families living in rural poverty in America since 1962. Your family (or organization, like a Girl Scouts Troop) can sponsor a recipient family, which includes writing to your family, getting to know them better, learning from them, mentoring them, and providing friendship. About once a month, you send boxes of food, clothing, supplies and other material aid to your match family. On average, family sponsors budget about $50 per month for their match family. Some are able to do more, some less.
Throw a kids’ birthday party with a charitable twist. Founded by two moms (natch), ECHOage helps you create a party online, pools all of the guests’ contributions and then sends you (the parent of the birthday child) half of the funds in the mail by check, or by PayPal. Your child can purchase exactly what he/she wants as a birthday gift. ECHOage directs the other half of the funds you raised to the charity you chose. No need for guests to shop for a birthday gift, or pick up the phone to make a donation.
If you’ve discovered a fun, effective way to encourage generosity in your kids, please share it in the comments. Happy #GivingTuesday!