Growing up, my mom and dad always made sure us kids KNEW how privileged we were. They didn’t hide the reality of the world from us; instead, they used the world around us to teach us lessons about giving back and helping those in need. How? Well.. in different ways. One particular memory that sticks out of them doing this is my mom picking me up from ballet class. She was always late (sorry for the call out, Mamuchi! 😅) so on this particular day when she was running behind for Steps pickup I didn’t think much of it. I opened the door to get into the back seat and was greeted by an old, frail looking man hunched heavily forward on the seat. I remember being impacted by how the old man looked and smelled; I remember wondering who this disheveled stranger was. My 8 year old self knew there was something different about this old man, even if I didn’t know exactly what that was.
After I jumped in the front, my mom explained that the old man in the back seat was a homeless man who often walked through our neighborhood. My mom had helped him many times before and he was known to her. The way I remembered the story- I doubt the details are accurate- the old man had asked my mom for money for a taxi and my mom fearing he would spend the money on something else, offered to drive him “home” instead. Of course my crazy mama picked up her 8 year old from ballet class on the way?!?!?! Mamuchi- if you’re reading this, WHAT?! Anyway.. we drove the man “home” that day to what I can best describe as a row of cardboard box forts on the side of the road. I was SO impacted by where this man slept. When I asked questions, my mom explained that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a home and a comfy bed to sleep at night so us that do have to be very thankful for that privilege and help those who don’t. She put it in terms that my 8 year old self understood and could relate to. This is important- a recent(ish) study from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that parents who TALK to their children about charitable giving significantly increase the likelihood that those children will grow up to be charitable themselves compared to kiddos who just watched their parents be charitable through out their lives without having meaningful conversations about it. Interesting, right? This got me thinking.. what can we do in our everyday lives to teach our kiddos to be charitable? After scouring th internets and doing some soul searching, I came up with a few ideas. This is by no means an exhaustive list and I am no expert– if you have any ideas or things that have worked for your kiddos, PLEASE share in the comments or in an email and I’ll be sure to include them.
Acknowledge Those Asking for Help
The idea is to use these opportunities to teach kids about the less fortunate. Even when you’re not giving folks money (or gif cards, see below!) for whatever reason, it’s important we still acknowledge their presence, look them in the eye and answer with a polite “sorry” or “have a good day.” The hope is this will teach kids that we are all humans that deserve to be treated with respect, no matter what our life circumstances are.
Gift Cards Galore
Much like my mama in the story above, I too worry about enabling addictions by giving money to folks on the street– I acknowledge how condescending and problematic as this thinking is, but it’s how I feel and I don’t want to lie. What I’ve been doing- especially during the holidays- is carrying around gift cards for Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. Whenever anybody asks me for money, I give them the gift card and explain it’s enough for a cup of coffee or something to eat. Once they buy something in Dunkin or Sbux, their policy is to let them stay as long as they need. This means a safe place to charge their phones and take shelter from the cold. If you do go this route- let the kids hand them out! If you can get them to set aside some allowance money each week to buy some gift cards, EVEN BETTER!
One Toy In, Two Toys Out
#Handsomehubbs’s mom used to this and I LOVE the idea. For every new toy that your kiddo wants you to get them, have them pick out two toys they’ve outgrown or not into anymore to donate to charity. If you’re in the US, Goodwill takes donations of pretty much anything, toys included. If you’re in Panama, the folks at Casa Esperanza will be happy to take any of your toys in good condition for their pre-k centers.
Pick Something Your Kiddos Like and Get Involved!
The idea is to get kids excited about charitable giving by focusing on something they are already interested in. A good example of this is Chickie’s puppy obsession. Once she’s a little older, my plan is to get her involved with the local shelter where we adopted Peter. We’ll show her pictures of the different puppies and what the shelter does for them so she can “decide” which a little push from yours truly, to put some allowance money aside to save the puppieshhh. Is your kid into elephants? I found a lot of “adopt and elephant” programs where they get picture updates of their elephants and a plush toy! I bet kiddos will LOVE that. Chick is very into the environment, so we are looking forward to signing up for a clean up day in our community this Spring.
When in Doubt, Pick Some Trash Up
The absolute easiest way to teach kiddos to be responsible and chartitable adults is to pick up trash in your favorite park! This is an easy, family friendly activity that requires literally zero planning. Pack your hand sanitizer and take the whole fam to the closest park to pick up trash. Explain to the kids how trash hurts the environment and how by picking it up we are doing society as a whole a favor. Stress how they never should throw trash on the floor or out the window, our planet will thank you.
That’s it! There you have it. My ideas for raising charitable kiddos. The most important thing, is to TALK to your kiddos about the problems that exist in the world in a way that they can understand. Us parents- understandably so- want to shield our babies from all that it wrong with this crazy world but in order to have them grow up to be people of good, we need to have the difficult conversations and not just brush things under the rug. What do you think? I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts and ideas below! Thanks for stoppping by, friend. Until next time..