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Instilling the Spirit of Giving in our Children

By: Clarissa Mariano-Ligon, Ph. D.Instilling the Spirit of Giving in our Children

Is there still a need to be charitable to others?  The answer can be found by simply looking around one’s surroundings. Does a day pass by when you don’t see a person in need of help?  There is no need to look far to realize that there plenty of people who need help. 

What does charity mean anyway?  It is formally defined as an organization established to provide help and raise money for those in need.  If one must follow this definition to a tee, even if there are countless people who need our help, it is not that easy to be charitable to others, is it?  However, there is a simpler definition that parents can keep in mind when trying to encourage their children to embrace the spirit of giving, which is the voluntary offering of help to those in need.

Given this situation at hand, everyone can contribute, even the young ones.  This can be a challenge for parents because some children place more value in obtaining material possessions instead of the embarking in the spirit of giving. The role of the parents then is crucial in exposing children to situations where they can help others.  According to a study made by non-profit organization Fidelity Charitable, 48% of those who grew up in a family with strong giving traditions consider themselves to be very happy at present.  More so, 81% of them describe their family as very close.  This means that not only the recipient benefits in a charitable act but also the giver.  With that, here are five simple ways on how to encourage children to embrace the spirit of giving.

  1. Get them involved – Start by talking to your children regarding certain current situations to encourage them to give.  This is better than forcing them to participate in an activity.  Emphasize the benefits that both parties, the giver and the receiver, will get from the act.  Once they agree, allow the children to take part in deciding what act of charity will take place.  It is hard to do something when one is not interested or when their inputs are not considered.  Usually, children will take a more active role when given a chance to give their thoughts and when they do something that interests them.
  1. Startsmall – To be charitable, one does not have to do something that is grand.  When the activity is quite complicated, it is not unusual to experience challenges.  We would like the first charitable activity to be as smooth as possible so that everyone, including the parents, will enjoy.  One person or family can be a good number to begin with. Starting small also means that you need not go far.  A person that you can help might be just within your home, a helper perhaps or someone within the neighborhood.  The act will be more meaningful since the children personally know who they will be helping. Take note also that when one gives, money does not have to be involved at all times.  Helping can be through an act of service. Volunteering to get the missalettes left in pews after mass can be a simple way of being charitable.  What’s nice about this example is that even young children can easily do this.
  1. Pay it forward – This is something that can be discussed to the children in order to appreciate the impact of giving no matter how small the act is.  It revolves on the idea that the beneficiary of an act of kindness does another deed to someone else, rather than returning it to the giver or doing nothing at all.  While talking about this, you can also touch on the concept of being selfless which is giving to others without expecting anything in return. 
  1. Do it together – Children enjoy doing activities as a family.  Involve everyone in the spirit of giving.  When families spend more time together, a better relationship is built with each other.  Also, studies have shown that when parents spend more time with their children, they do better in school.  What a better way to spend more time together than helping others, right?
  1. Make it a tradition – Now that your family has started this activity, why not make it a habit?  Usually, families embark on the act of giving during Christmas season. Another time can be during the end of May when families are getting ready for the start of the school year. Instead of donating food, your family can donate school supplies.   Another suggestion is you may do it every 5th of September to commemorate the International Charity Day. 

Being a parent is no easy task.  There is no single guidebook that can tell us how to be the best parent that we can be.  However, if there is such one, I am pretty sure that teaching them to be charitable to others will be there.

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