As fall approaches, many opportunities to “give” as a family will arise. This provides a great opportunity to reflect on an important element of our parenting:
Are we raising thoughtful, charity-minded children?
This kind of attitude begins young. A couple of years ago, an article in the New York Times called Learning Young the Gift of Helping Others sparked a lot of conversation. Then, the popular “don’t teach your kids to share” movement began and left a lot of us wondering: where is the balance?
Here are some guidelines:
- Start with age-appropriate exposure.
Your 2 year old doesn’t understand much about sharing and your 4 year old probably doesn’t need to see vivid depictions of the refugee crisis. Where does need exist around your children in their own contexts?
- Keep it real: what effects their world?
The distance of world events or issues may be too abstract for a young child to grasp. What causes do they care about and have access to? Animal advocacy/care? Local backpack giveaways? Seasonal, regional giving? Let them have some choice over the causes they participate in and it will create a personal connection.
- Swap donations for experiences.
Giving is great and helps ease the burden of materialism our fortunate children enjoy. However, bridging the gap between their fortune and someone else’s misfortune can often be most vividly exemplified in real experiences. When children are old enough, can they help visit a retirement community or soup kitchen? What experiences could you have as a family to reinforce an others-mindedness?
- Model it!
Simplifying your possessions and building charitable or philanthropic experiences into the normal rhythm of your family life will help your child see that such efforts are not “once in a while” but relate to their lives!
A great first try could be to follow Carol Weisman’s prompt (author of Raising Charitable Children): “Do something for someone else, draw a picture of what you did, and then tell me the story. ”
Kick start your family’s charity efforts by participating in Pink Out Day at your local Creative World School… in support of breast cancer research!