During the holiday season, many people are more generous than they are throughout the year. They may donate some change in the red kettle, donate food to a food drive or write a check to their favorite charity. Many charities plan on folks’ generosity during the holidays to balance their budget or to have enough to help those in need.
However, the simple truth is that many charities need donations throughout the year, not just during the holiday season. Often, the best way to cultivate a spirit of giving all year long is to start when children are small. My husband and I are utilizing a variety of strategies to try to raise our seven year old son to be a giver.
1. Donate generously yourself. My son sees my husband and I donate to our favorite charities during the year. We also routinely donate food to our local food pantry, and I try to bring him with me when we do this so he can see giving in action.
2. Encourage participation in drives at a child’s school or church. My son’s school has an annual coat drive in the fall and a shoe drive in the spring. He helps us go through the closets and look for items to donate, including some of his old favorite shoes or coats.
3. Have the child save for donations. My son began receiving an allowance at four years old, and from the beginning, his earnings were separated into three categories—save, spend and donate. He contributed to all three equally. While he loves to spend his spending money, if the donate section gets too large, he likes to find a place to send the money to.
4. Have your child watch the nightly news. This tip may be a bit controversial as the nightly news can be a bit graphic for a young child (and even adults sometimes!). I watch the news with him and keep the remote handy; if it begins to get too graphic, we quickly switch channels. However, by watching the nightly news, my son learned about the earthquake in Haiti. He watched with interest every night and understood that those affected had much less to begin with than we did and were suffering. He pulled out his bank and said he wanted to send all of his donate money to Haiti. I involved him in the whole process including finding a charity to donate to that was helping in Haiti.
5. Teach a spirit of gratitude. When people feel grateful for what they have, they may be more likely to want to help others who are less fortunate. Kids see others with much more than they have, but it is important that they learn to be satisfied with what they have, especially when they recognize that so many other people have much less and are in desperate need of assistance.
Donating to others who have a greater need than you do is a wonderful way to express gratitude for all you do have. Teaching your children to donate from the time they are small can both help them to learn to be givers throughout their lifetime and to appreciate all they do have. It is also a powerful way to make a difference in the world.
*Photo by City of Forth Worth*