One of the most important ways we can help our children grow into good citizens is by teaching them how to be charitable. Helping others can teach children invaluable lessons such as empathy, kindness, and the importance of people taking care of each other. It can also help increase your child’s appreciation of the things she has in her own life.
Another great benefit to teaching a child how to be charitable: Giving to others can balance out a child’s natural selfishness -- her desire for toys, favorite snacks, and other things she wants when she sees them in the store or in a commercial.
How can you raise a charitable child in our often-materialistic world? Here are some ideas.
Think beyond money. Writing a check to your favorite charity is great, but it can be a bit difficult for a grade-schooler to understand exactly how money can help someone. Doing something concrete -- such as helping deliver meals to elderly people -- can give your child a better sense of what giving can really mean.
Get her input on what charities you should be involved in. If she feels like she’s part of the decision-making, she’s more likely to become interested in the process. Offer her a few choices of things she might want to do or people she might like to help. Would she like to go read books to children in a hospital? Would she prefer helping you bake pies for homeless shelters? Or perhaps come up with a way to raise money for a children’s charity such as UNICEF by selling lemonade or other treats?
Volunteer together as a family. When you’re busy with work and school, it can be tough to find time to do things together as a family. By finding projects you can do together -- such as helping clean an area park, for example -- you can do your part to help your community and spend some time with each other.
Search and deliver. Look for gently-used clothing, toys, and books around your house and take the items to a shelter for families. (But don’t push her to part with a favorite toy or stuffed pal; encourage her to give up some old things but let her keep those items she isn’t ready to let go of quite yet.) Shop for canned and other packaged food and take it to a local food pantry.
Help your neighbors. Ask an elderly neighbor if she needs help walking her dog or shoveling the snow on her sidewalk -- any tasks that your grade-schooler will be able to do easily with just a little help. Working with your child to assist needy neighbors can be a terrific way to teach her about community and what it means to be a good citizen.
Tailor your tasks. When deciding which charities to go to with your child, take into consideration her personality. If your grade-schooler is likely to get upset by seeing children in a hospital, then that may not be an ideal place for you to volunteer.
Teach her to be thankful. From time to time, remind your child of how fortunate you are -- not just to have food and shelter, but to also have each other.
By incorporating gestures like these into your lives, you will bring out the natural helper in your grade-schooler. Before you know it, your child may be taking the lead in choosing charitable projects for your family.