Donating time to charity has always been important to me, and it’s a passion I really hope to pass on to my children, Charlotte and Rocky. My friends often ask me how to begin a conversation about charitable giving with their kids. I believe the holidays are a great place to start, beginning with Thanksgiving when the conversation often turns to all that we are grateful for – something that Christmas is all about in Australia. I think it’s a perfect time to bring up that many people aren’t as fortunate as we are. I want them to understand that a great family meal is a luxury.
I find it helpful that most schools also use the holiday time for similar discussions. I make sure my kids always participate in the food drives that their schools offer. I find it helpful to talk with the kids before we go to the store together and make lists of what they feel people really need for a healthy dinner. By bringing them into the discussion, I find that they take more ownership of the project. And while it’s great for kids to donate time to serve the food, you know best whether your kids are ready for the emotions that come with that responsibility. If they are not quite ready, many places need volunteer help in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, doing things like sorting through donations and preparing food ahead of time.
Charity is an important concept for kids to grasp this time of year, especially since the biggest gifting holiday is right around the corner. While I can’t stop my kids’ desire for gifts (especially the ones they see on TV) I can use it as a great lesson in giving back. Since my kids were little I have always tried to make them aware that there are plenty of kids out there that don’t have a roof over their heads let alone the giant amounts of toys that they have. While it may seem like a lot for these little people to understand, their ability for compassion is quite great.
So, we shift the focus from getting to giving. We go through toys and donate the things that they have outgrown or simply don’t have much interest in. I love when my daughter tells me stories about a certain toy and the good times she has had with it and how another kid will enjoy it. I can see the pride she feels in knowing she is making other kids happy. My son likes anything my daughter likes, so he is happy to join in and go through his toys (we also donate toys around their birthdays).
I also believe it’s important for kids to understand all the different ways you can donate. I often hear people say that they cannot donate money as they are barely squeaking by, but charities need so much more than money (although that is definitely appreciated). My kids and I often discuss the different ways we can offer help. Sometimes I am blown away by the ideas they come up with, ideas I hadn’t even thought of.
These lessons are paying off. When my daughter participated in a lemonade stand with her friends, she decided that she wanted to donate her portion of the money to charity. The other kids soon followed and they made signs and told everyone who stopped what they were doing and why. What started as a silly and fun weekend activity quickly became a lesson in giving back. Another time she wanted to do a nappy drive for Baby Buggy in lieu of presents. I remember one mum telling me a great story that as they were packing up the nappys for the donation, her son asked why Charlotte wanted nappys when she didn’t wear them. The mother realised she had never spoken to her son about charity and she was grateful for the opportunity to do so. It only goes to show that it’s never too soon to teach kids to give back.
More on teaching kids to give back:
- 7 Charitable Ways Kids Can Give Back on Their Birthday
- How I’m Teaching My Kids to Be Do-Gooders
- 9 Ways Kids Can Volunteer to Help Others