We’ve all been there as parents. In fact we’ve felt the mix of emotions ourselves. There are days our empathy runs deep. Days where we’d give off our own plate when noticing the hunger of someone else. Though there are also the days we just aren’t “feeling it.” Days when our survival instinct is the strongest emotion and going through the motions is how we make it. Even so, it is possible to raise a generous and teach your kid how to give back… and I think in the process, we will learn a thing or two ourselves.
How To Teach Your Kids to Give Back
Make it natural.
For us, giving to others is an essential part of our family values, and we find ways to make that clear and actionable, often. We do it, and our kids get to do it too. It might take a little while to find a charitable activity or project that your little one really latches on to, but finding different ways of being generous in your family life is a great start and a great way to introduce kids to the many ways of giving back.
There are so many ways to do this, maybe it’s volunteering regularly at a local nursing home or animal shelter. Maybe it’s cleaning up the yard of an elderly neighbor. In our community, there is a population living below the poverty level and we show up with dinner on a regular basis and work to collect toiletries and blankets to help. When my kids help with this, they’re reminded of how blessed they are, and even get excited when we launch new things like our monthly statement t-shirts where a portion of the proceeds helps to fight hunger!
Make it simple.
Especially for little ones, start small and simple. Place a jar in your home that extra change and money can go into (my kids are the best at finding loose change, everywhere). Have a centralized location where those little hands can drop change and watch it build up! Then comes the fun part, giving that money away. If you don’t yet have a clear goal of where it will go, ask your kids some simple questions. For example, “If there was one thing you could change in the world, what would it be?” I think you just might be surprised at their answer! For us as parents, it’s now our job to connect the dots and see how we can make that money help.
Make it a practice.
Even when we’re not out serving dinner to homeless or sending packages oversees, we can practice living a generous lifestyle at home. In fact, it’s an even better place to start. I find that my kids can tend to be the least generous with each other, and home is such a great place to practice living in a way that thinks of others’ needs first. While I don’t tend to make my kids give of something of their own with each other, I do like to ask questions like, “Oh that looks good, do you think your sister would want some of that as well?” “I know when your brother has gum, you usually want some too… do you want to share some of yours with him this time?” “How many of us are at the table; can you make sure everyone here has napkins before you sit down?” Little things like this just help us get in the practice of thinking outside ourselves.
Make it consistent.
If we volunteer in a soup kitchen, but ignore the person on a street corner asking for food, what message does that send our kids? If we make our kids go to football practice even when they don’t feel like it, but we skip out on the shift we signed up for in the community garden, it shows we’re only following through when it is a benefit to ourselves. Better to be realistic about schedules and not overcommit, than to commit to something and back out. Being consistent in generosity doesn’t mean that we have to give to every person holding a sign asking for help, but better to say something like, “Sorry, not this time,” than to ignore someone all together. Or be ready to answer when your little one asks about the women holding a clanging cup and a sign. Whether you explain how you direct your giving dollars or why you do or don’t stop every time, it’s a good way to let a discussion happen about giving back.
Make it practical.
Part of being generous is meeting the actual need of someone else. Helping our children to understand the economic reality of someone else and think about what they may really need is important. When we were cleaning out our home before a move, we had a TV we wanted to donate. Skylar (3 years old) wanted to donate it to the homeless that we help to feed, and Brayden (6 years old) piped in right away, “With no home, they wouldn’t have anywhere to put it! But we could sell it and use the money to buy something they need.” With this particular purging project, we donated the TV to an organization that needed it, and then collected blankets from friends and family as a more practical gift for the homeless in the area.
Make it local.
While it can be easy to give to relief efforts and other organizations across the globe (and there are so many great places to give to, we do as well, and I’m not saying to quit that), it isn’t always easy for your wee ones to see the actual cause and effect of that giving. Letting them do something tangible to give back and help someone else in need allows them to see the payoff of that contribution, whether it’s in the form of an action, a gift or monetarily.
Another practical and local idea is finding companies to frequent that are already helping… and explain just how they help with your kiddos. This is why I’m so excited for Sprouts Farmers Market to open locally (a few are coming to the Tampa Bay area, with the first opening THIS month!).
Nearly 133 billion pounds of food are wasted every year in the United States. Food retailers are responsible for nearly 42 billion of those pounds. Sprouts has initiatives designed to significantly reduce this waste.
All groceries that are no longer fit for sale but remain perfectly edible and nutrient-rich are donated and channeled through local hunger relief agencies, many of them affiliated with Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in U.S.! Before the grand opening here in this area, Sprouts has already partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay, and are at the ready to distribute food in our community. Just in 2016, Sprouts donated about 18 million pounds of product through the Food Rescue Program, which is equivalent to 15 million meals… and this? This is a give back that I can get on board with just by frequenting our local market.