Teaching kids to help those in need can start from an early age. You’ll find a variety of strategies to encourage empathy, generosity, and compassion in safe and effective ways. Whether you’re looking to build charitable giving into your family tradition for a holiday or you want to instill a sense of giving for everyday experiences, you can get kids involved to build a foundation of compassion they’ll take with them throughout their lifetimes. Crème de la Crème put together these tips you can use when you’re looking to teach your kids about charity and giving.
Think of Charity as a Learned Behavior
Kids learn to sit up, crawl, and take their first steps. They learn the alphabet and how to count. They also need to learn how to put others before themselves, and you can help them learn to think of helping others as a regular part of daily life. Nurture generosity in the same way you would nurture other essential skills you want your kiddos to learn.
One strategy? Using positive reinforcement. Fortunately, acting compassionately and helping those in need comes with its own built-in positive reinforcement thanks to the feeling of happiness and satisfaction you get when you do something good for someone else. You can encourage this feeling in your kids so that they make the connection between those warm and fuzzy feelings and helping someone out. When your child does something kind, ask them to describe how it makes them feel. You can also act as a role model and explain how you feel when you give.
When you think of charitable characteristics as their own skill set, you can find ways to engage toddlers and children with activities that model those behaviors. For example, empathy and generosity can comprise that skill set. Model generosity by showing how you share with your child, and encourage them to do the same.
Make Empathy and Giving Visual
Kids tend to learn best when they really see the impact of their actions. You might schedule a tour with a non-profit organization you want to support. Some causes come with visual cues, while others tend to be more abstract, so take some time to explain how research or actions impact people.
The more concrete helping those in need becomes, the more memorable it will be for kids. Kids start to feel empathy around 3 to 5 years old, so making lessons concrete when your child is in that age range can go a long way to demonstrating the importance of helping those in need.
Fostering an emotional connection is important, too. You can talk about why you give with your child, detailing how your charitable contributions or time volunteering impacts others.
Demonstrate Behaviors You Want Your Kids to Learn
You model behaviors for your kids in all aspects of life. That goes for giving skills as well. If you want to encourage your children to give time, money, or other items to help those in need, you can further encourage them by showing them how it’s done.
Modeling charitable behaviors can look different for different families. Maybe you take your kid along with you every time you donate blood. Maybe you let them choose an important organization to donate funds for holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years, or you let them pick out clothes they’ve grown out of to donate during the holiday season. Maybe you get them involved in a day of volunteering together as a family. No matter how you define giving, getting your kids active in the process will show them safe and effective ways they can be compassionate.
Of course, if you’ve ever run into trouble getting a family consensus on what to have for dinner, you won’t be surprised to hear that sometimes kids find it difficult to decide where to spend their time or give their money. You can guide them by asking them to think about what your community needs, and which of those needs feel most important to them. Ask them specific ways they can impact that cause. Then, use their ideas to make a giving plan of action.
Empower Kids to Make a Difference
You can empower kids to get involved in a variety of ways. If your child gets an allowance, you might encourage them to set aside a certain portion for charity. You can let them pick the cause that’s important to them. Giving a part of their allowance will help them see they have the power to give.
Not all kids have access to money, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to empower them to give. Acknowledge that kids have an ability to do something meaningful. Kids can ask for donations to an important cause for their birthday or a holiday instead of gifts, for instance. Again, giving doesn’t need to be monetary in nature. Gifts of time and effort are just as important.
Encourage Gratitude, Without Pushing Too Hard
Giving kids a chance to reflect on what they’re thankful for can help highlight areas where they might give. You can encourage kids to keep a gratitude journal when they’re old enough, just be careful you don’t make it feel like an assignment. You could also simply set aside some time each week to discuss what everyone in the family is thankful for.
All in all, try to take a step back and encourage gratitude and giving, without pushing your child to give more than they want to. Forced giving turns into something transactional. When kids give the time and money they want, even if it’s less than you might hope in the moment, it builds the foundation for a genuine and positive relationship to giving.Teaching kids about genuine giving from an early age instills compassion and empathy. It’s possible to build helping others into your regular routine so it becomes second nature to kids as they grow and develop. There’s no right or wrong way to give back, either. Whether you’re making a donation to an important organization or volunteering your time together, making giving a family activity will model safe and effective ways to help those in need. How do you give back with your kids? Drop us a line so we can share your ideas.