The Value of Giving
Kids need to understand the basic concept of sharing before donating money
Christmas is the time of year associated with giving – to each other, to those less fortunate, and to charitable causes. What we give depends on our circumstances and the needs of others: our time and energy, our imaginations, our spirit, our skills or our love. Many times, we find that the best way to help others is to give money.
Christmas provides a great opportunity to begin to teach our children why we value giving year-round. Giving money requires planning. Children need to have some experience handling money, and understand basic concepts, such as sharing, working together and helping others, before they can fully comprehend why giving money is a good thing to do. With your guidance, the satisfaction and joy of giving money to help others will “click” at the age of seven or eight.
Around the age of two, you can begin to teach your child about taking turns and that some activities are more fun when others join in. Some good first steps are:
- Tell your child that some things belong to other people.
- Show your child objects that are shared by everyone at home.
- If your child is going to be required to share something, give him advance notice.
- Praise your child for sharing.
- Make sharing more pleasant than not sharing.
By the ages of five or six, most kids will share toys readily. At this point, they may be ready to grasp the idea of organizational sharing. A good example of this is the public library. Together, walk around the library to look at the range of materials available. Explain that local government provides financial support, individuals provide cash and in-kind donations, and volunteers supply time and effort. You can also point out that other families can now enjoy the big stack of returns at the front desk.
Many kids love to help with household chores and projects. If your child is not so cooperative, you can point out that Mom and Dad have more time for reading stories and playing games when they get help. You may also want to consider a volunteer activity that you and your child can do together or as a family. Be sure to select a cause that addresses a “common good” or a concrete problem that you feel comfortable discussing.
Whenever you can, show your child how to help others in small, meaningful ways. For example, move an elderly neighbour’s newspaper to her porch and then ask your child to take turns with you to do it every day. Noticing the struggles that others face is the first step in developing a sense of empathy. Start with siblings, family, neighbours, then broaden your attention to your own community, and, as your child matures, to more organized national or international ways to help others.
Once your child has some experience handling an allowance and helping those around them, you may want to introduce the idea of giving money to help others in the broader community.
Begin by explaining that a certain amount of your child’s money should be set aside to help people. Kids with generous allowances and few expenses can afford to give more. By counting out the coins together, you can help your child understand how saving 25¢ a week will result in a donation of $13 at the end of the year.
Talk to your child about a range of charities that need support and how the money will be used. To provide a sense of control over the process, allow your child to direct her own donation. For example, a child who has lost a grandparent to a disease may decide to support the search for a cure. If so, help your child to find a reputable organization that supports such research.
Make it memorable
Why not turn the donation into an event? Carefully count out the money together and write a cheque to the organization. You may want to explain that a cheque is the safest way to make sure the money gets to the organization. If possible, allow your child to donate his money in person. If that’s not possible, mail the cheque together and talk about it at the dinner table and with friends. Recognize the donation as an accomplishment, just as you would any job well done.
As your child develops the capacity to give, whether it’s skills, time, effort or money, be sure to commend her actions. This praise from you, more than anything, will help her to incorporate your values and build self-esteem, which is perhaps the most enduring present we, as parents, will ever give.