Why not start a family tradition of helping others? Here are a few tip to help your kids get started!
New sizes, new seasons: involve kids in the project of trying on, discarding and giving away too small clothing and outgrown toys. Encourage them to give away a few things that still fit if they have enough to spare. Kids can help clean or fold items to be donated as a show of respect to the recipient, and benefit from going along to donate them.
Birthdays are a great opportunity! Pick a number of gifts that you feel it reasonable for your child to receive, and help them donate the rest. Let guests know what you’re doing and what your chosen organization needs, and have your child be part of the actual giving.
The next time your family is asked for a donation, talk about it at the table. Why you’re giving money to someone else, who will get it and what they will use it for. This will help your child see that money can be shared, and help them learn how to make smart decisions.
If your child gets an allowance or a gift of cash, or earns money, encourage them to set a small percentage aside for donations. This builds a lifelong habit. If your school is doing a drive for canned goods or other donations, consider a one to one matching program – however much your child donates from their own money, match it! Kids don’t learn much from handing in someone else’s money!
Do you volunteer? Most parents do! Much of our volunteering centers around our children – at their school, for a team or a youth group. Have you talked to your child about what you do and why you do it? Kids may just assume we have to bake, coach, show up.
Kids (everybody really) learn best by doing. Teaching children to make the world a better place means showing them they can do that now! Walking a neighbor’s dog, manning a table at a book fair, serving food at a homeless shelter – look for chances for your kids to volunteer their time!
Find something you’re good at and use it to help others. This is also the fastest way to build up a child or teen. Self-esteem, self-confidence, the resilience learned while problem solving and navigating a new situation all come about when kids learn to take their passions to others.
Elementary age children can do a demonstration class of a special skill (alone or with other children) for a nursing home, a Veterans’ facility, or rehabilitation center. Whether this is dance or karate or gymnastics or chess, people love to see what kids can do.
Middle schoolers are learning that adults do not have all the answers, that there are social problems we haven’t solved. Find out what bothers your tween the most – hunger, poverty, animal abandonment, pollution – and get them involved in a project to make an impact for good.
Teens can likewise identify a problem they’d like to help solve. Encourage your teenager to involve friends and create a larger project. The act of identifying a part of the problem, designing a solution, accessing resources, raising money or awareness, working with people in the target community – the life lessons to be learned here are huge!
We have kids with so much energy and passion. We have a world with strife and suffering. Let’s guide our children towards a world view that makes them a big part of the solutions we seek!
Remember to “gossip” about your child’s good works to teachers, grandparents or close friends to drive home that you value your child’s contribution!
Dr. G (Deborah Gilboa, MD) is a Family Physician and mother of four, as well as the founder of www.AskDoctorG.com. For more great suggestions, and an age-by-age list of ways to involve children in community service, please visit her site at www.AskDoctorG.com/free-resources/