Raising a Child Who Gives Back
By Stacey Feintuch
We likely all want to raise kids who give back to those in need. And doing something positive for the community—whether it be in your own house, next door or across the world—isn't just about doing good deeds for others.
It also benefits your child's overall well-being, boosting his happiness, confidence and self-worth. It shows kids that their actions matter. It can teach kids new skills and introduce them to new people. The best part? Anyone of almost any age can volunteer.
Once kids are exposed to helping others, it will become a year-round habit, not just around the holidays. Here are some ways to raise a child who gives back and foster the giving spirit in your family.
Set a good example.
Just like saying please and thank you eventually became or will become routine for your child, so can giving, if you teach her. Most kids won't be altruistic on their own; you'll need to give them a little push. The ball is in your court to show kids how they can work for the common good. It shouldn't be something kids do just because it's required by their school or to make their college application stand out.
We often make donations by mailing a check or clicking a button online. It's quick and easy. But by donating this way, your kids don't see charitable actions in effect. Make sure what you're doing is obvious to them. Tell them what causes you're donating to and why. Explain how the money you're donating will make a difference.
Let him select the donations.
Giving money without putting in time or physical effort may not help kids understand the importance of giving back. That's why you should donate in a meaningful way. Perhaps put aside some of your own charitable monies for your kids. Then, let them suggest what you should donate to or what causes they want to support. Encourage them to give some of their allowance to the cause and promise that you'll match every dollar they donate.
Choose a project your child likes.
Find opportunities and causes that reflect your child's talents or interests. By letting kids decide what they're doing, they'll be more excited and appreciative of the experience. Choosing a cause near and dear to everyone is the best way to get the whole family on board and connected to the project, without it feeling like a chore. Does he like to bike? Find a local group that maintains a bike trail, for example. Animals lovers can volunteer at an animal rescue center or see if the shelter needs homemade dog biscuits or cat toys.
Set up a lemonade stand and donate the proceeds to your favorite cause. Collect canned goods and other nonperishable items and donate them to a food bank. Draw some pictures and bring them to a hospital in town.
Realize it doesn't have to be time-consuming.
Don't feel overwhelmed by the idea of community service. You don't have visit a nursing home weekly or travel to Africa, unless you want to do so, of course. It doesn't take a lot of time to make a big difference. The opportunities are endless to give back together and bond with your kids, on your own terms. Every little gesture goes a long way, with no measure too small.
Go back to the basics.
Building a culture of giving starts from the simplest actions. Encourage kids to share with their siblings. Have them make birthday cards for friends. Pick up trash in the yard or at the playground. Even smiling is a charitable act. Pretty soon these actions will become habit. Kids hopefully will think about how they can help others, even on a small scale. Maybe they'll see a neighbor in need and offer to shovel snow, mow the lawn or take out the trash. You'll instill the value in your kids to help others and give first, without expecting anything in return.