As the saying goes: “Charity begins at home”, there is nowhere better for kids to learn about empathy than from their own parents.
Inspiring kids to be compassionate and loving towards others may not sound like a big challenge, but parents actually have to pay a lot of care and attention to do things the right way.
1. Explain to kids the idea of charity and why it matters.
Most kids at a young age tend to be self-centered, and they do not realize the need to pay attention or to take care of others.
As your child reaches the age of 4 or 5, it is time that you taught them about the importance of kindness.
You can start by pointing out the lifestyle they have already had, for example:
“Hey baby, look at you. You have this beautiful dress to put, and you can eat ice cream on the weekend. Oh, and mama and papa are always by your side when you need us. Isn’t it amazing?”
Then, you can move on by telling them the harsh truth, that many people do not have access to such privileges.
“Actually, there are a lot of kids your age out there that do not have enough food to eat, water to drink, or even clothes to wear. Some of them cannot go to school because they are poor. And some do not have parents.”
Drawing a comparison between “what we have” versus “what the less fortunate have” will make it easier for kids to understand the gap.
Once kids start to get what you mean, tell them that because everyone shares a planet together, we should try our best to help others, especially those who are in need.
But try not to sound too pedantic.
No one wants to listen to a rant on the role of charity.
Try to make it relatable to kids, and build up their inner sympathy day by day.
2. Help kids perform small, daily giving acts.
Some kids are confused that charity means doing big works, like visiting Africa to feed hungry children, or going to Japan to help deal with the tsunami consequences.
Thus, kids might think that being charitable is something beyond their reach.
However, there are still plenty of ways to show gratitude and benevolence that kids can do.
- Hold the door for others. If your child is the first person to come through the door and there are people following behind, he or she can help by holding the door and waiting for everyone to pass through.
- Let friends borrow stationery when they forget to bring them along. At school, tell your kids that if they spot someone who needs a pencil, or an eraser but does not have one, they can lend it to their friend.
- Pick up things for others. While on the street, at school, or even at home, kids can show how supportive they are by collecting stuff that people accidentally drop, and return them to the owner.
By pointing these out to kids, you will make them understand that charity is not about how grand your action is.
It is about the content of your heart, and whether you are willing to do something for others.
No matter how big or small, if kids decide to help someone out, their help is always valuable.
3. Get kids involved in neighborhood activities.
A fun way for kids to engage in charity is through working with the area they currently live in.
Many residencies now set up a charity day, where everyone would gather around, bake cookies for the local church, donate small changes to buy a new facility at the nursing home, or to help build a children’s playground.
Bring your kids to such events and let them see other people showing their commitment to the community.
If your kids are capable, allow them to partake in certain activities.
They cannot stand near the oven and bake stuff? That’s okay. Ask them to bring the flour and the eggs to the cooks.
No kids can handle moving wooden pillars and painting old tires for a new park?
You can ask them to deliver snacks and drinks to workers at break time.
Even when there is nothing kids can do, they can still learn a lot from observing other people putting in their time and effort to help others.
And sometimes, it does not have to be a huge neighborhood event.
You can still think of smaller things that your kids can do with the neighbors.
Is there any elderly living on their own near your house?
You can cook a bowl of soup and buy some new fruits, then take your kid over and give it to the elderly with a warm smile.
If it is in the summer, let’s set up a stand and sell some lemonade to passers-by, then use the profit to donate to the church.
Not only are these actions suitable for kids, but they also allow kids to directly see the impact of how charity plays out in real life.
4. Teach kids how to donate things in a smart way.
Donation is probably the first word that springs to mind when someone mentions “charity”.
However, kids may interpret donation as “giving away things lavishly”.
Thus, you should be careful when approaching kids about donations.
Below are some of the ways in which kids can donate to good causes.
- Old clothes. There are lots of pieces that kids have outgrown, or simply things that they dislike. Parents can help wash the clothes, then ask kids to fold and put them into a bag.
Kids can hand it in at the local community service, or even better, they can give it to someone they know that is in need.
- Old toys. Similarly, kids can pick out toys that they no longer use (but make sure they are in good shape!), and donate it to other children.
- Money. If your kids are a bit older and have earned some money on their own, you can ask if they want to donate a few dollars a month.
There are many organizations for kids to choose from when deciding where to give their hard-earned cash. If your kids are into pets and animals, suggest they have look at the World Wildlife Fund or the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Teaching about giving is important, but do not let your kids throw their personal properties away just so they feel like they are helping the community.
Another thing parents need to notice is that never let kids feel like they have to donate against their will.
When selecting clothes and toys for donation, make sure your kids have the biggest say.
Whether they want to give away a particular thing or not is up to them.
Let kids choose the donation, and their acts will be much more meaningful.
5. Show kids real-life examples of people who are famous for their charity work.
All kids need a hero, even when it is about charity work.
Show them photos and films about people who help turn the world into a better place with their generosity and dedication.
You can start with the most common figures, like Mother Teresa or Bill and Melinda Gates.
Then, based on your kids’ preferences, pick out someone that they can identify with.
If your kid is a bookworm, tell them that J.K. Rowling has established a global charity organization called Lumos to save children from being sent to harmful orphanages.
Have a small scientist under your roof? Let your kid know Elon Musk – the person who revolutionizes space travel – gives out millions of dollars towards the advancement of education.
Your kid cannot stop listening to pop music? Turn on the song “Ronan” by Taylor Swift and tell your child all the money earned through this song will be given to cancer charities because “Ronan” is a tribute to all the kids suffering from cancers.
Football is what your kid crazy about? Let them learn more about David Beckham and his role as the Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF, and how he has helped better the lives of children around the world.
By making these role models relatable to kids, you may motivate your kids to grow their sense of gratitude and giving.
6. Set good models for kids.
Kids always imitate the behaviors of their parents, so make sure you yourself are an example for your kids to follow.
By performing charitable acts, you are giving a silent message that if you can do it, your kids can do the same.
Charity is about showing sympathy and kindness to others, and it is one of the most necessary lessons for kids.
No parents want their child to grow up and become a cold-hearted person who fails to support others.
So today, let’s start with the simplest acts. Let’s teach your child how to give from the bottom of their hearts.