Giving

Teach children to be charitable

It is often during times of extreme devastation when children first see how communities can join together to help one another. Such efforts may be a child's initial exposure to charity while highlighting the importance of putting another person's needs before your own.

But children need not be exposed charity solely during times of tragedy. Teaching children to be charitable is one of the ways to help them become good citizens of the world. By helping others, parents can instill early on lessons of kindness, empathy and compassion into their sons and daughters. Children who are ready and willing to lend a helping hand may grow up to be more appreciative of what they have in their own lives. What's more, they may learn to be selfless while assigning less value to material things.

Youngsters who repeatedly see their own parents and other role models doing good and lending a helping hand may be more inclined to repeat that behavior, and giving will be the norm for them rather than the exception.

To mold charitable children, families can employ the following techniques.

* Start locally. There are people right in your own community or on the street where you live who can benefit from a helping hand. Ask an elderly neighbor if he or she needs assistance with shopping for groceries or could benefit from your child taking in the garbage cans after pickup. Children can help shovel snow from sidewalks or do other age-appropriate tasks, such as place a carelessly strewn newspaper closer to a neighbor's door.

* Volunteer as a family. The entire family can get together and spend time working at a community-sponsored carnival or cleaning debris from an area beach. Volunteer work may be available at your child's school, where families can plant gardens around the property. When volunteering as a family, not only is your entire family helping to do good, but you're spending quality time together as well.

* Make charitable donations. Let children see the solicitations for monetary donations that come in the mail. Read aloud the pleas for funds to help children and adults who may not have enough to eat or who may require medical care. This is an important lesson in humility and helps show children that not every person in the world is comfortable. Once kids have read about the needs of others, involve them in the donation process. They can assist with sorting clothing and toys they may no longer need and then help bag it up and donate it to an agency that takes collected items.

* Give throughout the year. Charity need not be limited to the holiday season. Inform children that many people need throughout the year, and that volunteering is a year-round activity.

* Match kids' charitable fundraising. Encourage children to start their own fundraising efforts and match the funds they raise. Find companies that will also match the amount your children have raised.

* Set up a giving policy. Children can learn the importance of giving at an early age by dividing their allowances and financial gifts into different categories. They can put one-third toward savings, one-third toward spending and one-third toward donations. If children do not have a lot of money in a piggy bank, they can donate their time, which many charities need as much as money.