It’s never too early to start teaching your kids/grandkids/nieces or nephews to give back. My mother recently found this picture of me at age one donating books to our local library. Without realizing it, my mother and father had instilled in me a desire to give back before I was even old enough to dress myself. While I have no memory of that day, only an old newspaper clipping, the foundation of a heart-attitude was being laid. Along with sharing, taking turns, and using manners I was learning that it was important to give. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a generation of children who know and practice the importance of giving back? Think about how this would affect our society! The good news is, it’s never too early or too late to start these practices with your own kids. Here are a few ideas…
Kids grow out of clothes and toys at a rapid age when they’re young. This usually means you’re bagging things up to give to a thrift store. Instead of the chain thrift, look into local non-profit needs, such as your community’s domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, or foster care homes. Get your kids involved! Let them help choose and bag the clothes and toys, then bring them with you when you make the donation. If your kids are very young, you probably can’t explain to them how this helps others but just the act of taking things that were theirs and giving them away will begin to set the stage in their mind and hearts for donating.
Ask your kids to tell you about a cause they would like to give money to and help them come up with ways to do it! Doing chores, mowing lawns for neighbors, cleaning out cabinets, or babysitting are great ways to raise funds. You can also teach them to build businesses that give back by helping them set up a table to sell things they’ve made whether it’s lemonade or bracelets. Set a goal amount and be sure to create some sort of a chart so they can track their progress and see when they've reached their goal.
Find your local soup kitchen or food bank and spend an afternoon volunteering there. Our local food bank allows kids as young as 4 to volunteer, so it’s a great thing to do as a family. Recycling centers, pet shelters, libraries, senior centers and many other organizations are great places to contact about volunteer opportunities. If your children are older, look into sending them abroad with an organization that takes teens on volunteer trips all over the world. You will open their eyes to how much they take for granted, and they will come home forever changed.
If you shelter your kids from the needs of this world, they’ll have a hard time even knowing they exist. Take them to hear age appropriate presentations by non-profit speakers, read them articles online, and take the time to discuss needs in your community and how you can help.
Lead by example! If your kids see you taking the time to raise money for a cause, making donations and working on volunteer projects they will have even more reason to understand the value of giving. I’ve watched my parents volunteer their time, money, and resources my entire life, so when it came time for me to decide whether or not I was going to make time to give back, it wasn’t even a question in my mind.
Share with me the ways you're teaching your kids to give back in the comments below.
Dezerai Seitzer is the owner and founder of Global Teas, a retail line of tea that gives people the opportunity to help change lives by donating $1 from every pouch of tea sold to a non-profit organization.