Fostering the spirit of giving in our children
My son called from college to tell us he had adopted monthly support of an AIDS child in Africa. As a mom, this is the kind of news that warms my heart. Charitable giving has always been one of the things my husband and I value. We hope we are passing that value onto our children. You can’t be sure where your “teachings” land until your children get to the place in their lives where they can make such decisions for themselves.Two moms of young children asked me today how they could help foster a spirit of giving in their children. I was able to tell them about the call from my son, and about my younger son who had made a point to put money in every Salvation Army kettle he came across over the holidays. Not only did he put his money in, but got each of his friends to do the same. What we had done to foster this spirit seemed to be working, so I shared my strategy.
First and most importantly, I told them, you must be a model for the behavior you wish for from your children. Our kids have seen us put money in the church basket, buy raffle tickets, participate in fundraisers and always talk in a positive way about the good work we were happy to support. Second, we made sure to include the kids in giving. Most often their participation was giving of their time and effort. The younger they were, the more important it was that we involved them in things they could do. They helped me as I rang the bell for the Salvation Army during the holidays. They helped collect food and gifts for children, and came with us as we delivered them. Each time we took items to the thrift shop, we had conversation about how the sale would help others.
YouthZone provides great opportunities for kids of all ages to give through volunteering. Without a doubt, my children participated. One of my sons and his friend raised over $13,000 in the annual Kiss-n-Squeal contest. The magic in all this is that it is very rewarding. The boys experienced the good feelings that come from giving. It is easy to get hooked.Now that they have reached their teen years, we decided our sons should be included in our family charitable contributions in a new way. We sat at the table with the stack of end-ofthe-year requests from a myriad of organizations. We designated an amount of money and told the boys we wanted their help to decide how it should be distributed. Not only did we make decisions for those requests, but we made a plan for our charitable giving for the entire next year.
I have every confidence that my kids will make giving a part of their lives and pass on this love to their friends and future families. It will warm my heart … and theirs.Debbie Wilde is executive director of YouthZone.
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