As parents we strive to teach our children all the right lessons. I can’t even begin to count how many times over the course of my son’s toddler years I spoke the words, “Make sure you share your toys, keep your hands to yourself and, of course, be nice to your friends.”
Eventually, kids get older and the lessons become bigger and more important. One of the most difficult lessons is often teaching our children to be charitable and generous as they grow up. I’m a firm believer that kids learn from experience and, for many children, it’s simply hard to understand why others need their help.
As we all know moms love to share ideas and, when I asked some friends their strategies for teaching children to be generous, their lessons were amazing.
First and foremost on the list of ideas is a simple one. By going through old toys and books and donating them to a variety of worthy causes children learn that, simply by giving up items that they no longer use, they can improve another child’s life.
On that same note, outgrown clothes, especially winter gear such as hats, coats and gloves, are easily donated. By dropping items off at a shelter or charitable organization kids learn that, without help, many children would suffer tremendously during the colder months.
Even, as one mom pointed out, items like stuffed animals can often be donated to local police and sheriffs’ departments to help calm young children down in emergency situations.
In many cases, however, it is volunteering time and working directly with others that can help children learn to be charitable and kind.
From volunteering at a soup kitchen or food pantry to coaching youth sports or even spending time with patients at a nursing home there are plenty of places where kids can help others and, at the same time, learn from the experience. As one mom pointed out, her teens have learned more about life from volunteering than anywhere else.
The holiday season can create a number of opportunities for children to help others. As many moms pointed out they use Christmas as a chance to “adopt” local families through various organizations and participate in programs like Angel and Giving Trees. Some choose to purchase items which are then shipped directly to needy families through a variety of charities.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the holidays are the only time to care for others. As one mom mentioned, keeping a “donation” jar for loose change throughout the year proves to kids that small donations matter and pennies can eventually add up to something big. Her twins are only six and as she explained, “They really do get it.”
Perhaps the most important lessons in generosity are those that are taught by example. As one mom pointed out, “Kids need to see their parents being charitable and offering time to volunteer, whether it is making a meal for a new mom, collecting food for the local food pantry or offering to drive an elderly person to the doctors.”
Not all lessons need to be huge. Often, something as simple as holding a door open or helping someone reach the top shelf in the grocery store can make all the difference in the world. Let’s face it, what is more fulfilling than helping someone out and getting a smile and a thank you in return?
Reality is that generosity is contagious and the more kids do and experience the more likely they are to want to continue giving back and helping others.