Children are the future. So how important is it to encourage charitable behaviour in children while they are young?
When we are young, we have a great sense of compassion and empathy towards others. Children want to cuddle someone who is sad, or play with another child who looks like they are alone. Encouraging sharing and helping can bring out qualities in your child that will stay with them for life. We have all felt the positivity that a good deed can bring to our day, which boosts self-esteem and confidence, and starting this young could create a well-rounded adult!
So how easy is it to weave charity into everyday lives? The worst outcome would be to completely over load your child with the guilt of being better off than others and put them off wanting to help, but by subtly introducing ideas of charity you can make these actions last a lifetime.
Engage their minds
Children are more likely to engage with a charity that they can understand. While there is certainly a place for all charitable giving, by picking one or two choice charities it’s more likely that your children will interact and want to help.
It’s important to find a charity that is relatable, perhaps an animal charity or a charity that focuses on children who are ill, or living in poverty. Explaining how lucky they are in comparison to many millions of children in the world will certainly help your child understand this. Or explaining how many animals are abandoned by relating it to your family dog will help instil compassion.
Although money is very important to a charity, your free time is actually worth just as much. Getting involved in local volunteering days or going to a charity event, helps children realise the importance of helping others. Whether it’s helping pick litter at a beach clean, or walking dogs for the local animal shelter; these activities once a month or even as a one off will encourage the act of giving.
Alternatively, helping an elderly neighbour to get their shopping, or with small household tasks like washing up or mowing the lawn will boost their desire to help others as they will receive an immediate response of gratitude.
It's easy to find ways to encourage your child to give, this doesn't have to be taking away pocket money and sending it off to a charity, which will probably cause some feelings of resentment! The easier way to do this is simply by going through old toys/books/clothes and asking your child to pick out things they no longer use or want and pack them up to give to the charity shop.
Another good way of sharing is by getting involved with the shoe box appeal which usually takes place around Christmas time. Gathering items for a box to be sent to a child of similar age, who is living in poverty or in a war torn country will inspire helping those in need.
Listen to prompts from your child, if they are concerned that poor children don't have toys like they do, take them to a shop, have them pick out a toy and give it to a charity to be distributed to children who are in need.
Lead by example
It’s all good and well teaching the importance of charity and giving, but it’s really important that you practice what you preach. You don't need to be handing out all of your money, the smallest acts of kindness can have the largest lasting impact.
There are ways that we can all help charities much more than we currently do, and involving your children from a young age will help to encourage these behaviours for the future generations to come!
After all, charity does begin at home!