Teaching Children the Value of Giving

My last post was about educating your adult children about your family’s estate plans and investments. An issue that some families with minor children might be concerned with is how to teach their children the personal and community value of making charitable contributions. If this is important to you, you may want to read “Raising Charitable Children” by Carol Weisman.

Most middle class American children have no shortage of occasions to learn that receiving gifts is pleasurable. They learn from a very young age that holidays, birthdays and special occasions are when we get gifts of things and money. Rarely is it taught that these occasions can also be used as opportunities to help others and derive satisfaction from this activity.

Gifts aren’t always things and money. We can instill habits of donating one’s time and skills to people and organizations that need them. We can teach how to serve meals to those less fortunate, help with the needs of animals at an animal shelter, or work as a volunteer at a hospital or nursing home. Children can also sometimes discover an important need that is not being served in their neighborhood or community.  We can teach younger children things as simple as reading to the elderly or making sandwiches for the hungry.

Weisman suggests that when introducing these concepts and ideas to our children we need to keep it fun for them and allow them to start out with age appropriate tasks that they enjoy.  A “Joy and Sadness Meeting might be used to uncover their ideas.  Children can be asked to discuss the things that bring them happiness and also things that cause them sadness in life. This can lead to ways they can connect their gifts to those people and organizations that are doing what is important for those needs.

For example, your son may love soccer. Some kids may not be able to play organized soccer because of the costs of the sport. How can they find a way or an organization that can help with this need? Perhaps he can donate his time as a referee, thereby helping his soccer community do what is needed for the sport. Such a beginning might be as specific as your child’s immediate surroundings and as distant as a nonprofit fund providing funds for poor kids to learn to play soccer in another country.

You can also give your child a “Money Savvy Piggy Bank” that has four different compartments for “Spend, Save, Invest, and Donate” to teach them the uses of money including charity. One source for the bank sells it for $19.95 plus postage. If you have successful strategies that you have used to teach your children about the importance and value of giving, please email me with them at eric@lifetimelegil.biz and I will share them in a future post.

Those who learned the value of philanthropy early are likely to tell you that giving can be a lifelong habit that helps them Add meaning to their lives while helping others.