Developing empathy in children is imperative to ensure we are promoting good, responsible citizenry. Studies show that children start to show genuine empathy - understanding how other people feel - around 2 years of age. To help foster values of charitable giving, families must find ways to teach kids about giving back and make it FUN.
Turn Their Passions into Charitable Giving
What are your child's interests? Music? Art? Sports? It's easy for them to make the connection if you relate it to their actual interests and turn their passions into fuel for charitable giving. If they love playing a musical instrument or singing, perhaps they would lend their talents to perform in a charitable concert or pageant. If they love art, have them draw pictures for children who are sick in the hospital. If they're into sports, they could help run a used sporting goods collection drive.
Food pantries are always looking for help - not just around the holidays. Make it a fun exercise each week you go to the supermarket with your child to allow them to pick out one or two items to be donated. Children can feel a sense of ownership because they chose the canned good or non-perishable items and a sense of accomplishment when they walk into the food pantry with the donations.
Serving Up Something Good
Do you make the best brownies? What about holiday-themed cookies? Have your child take the lead on a bake sale at their school. They can help you bake the items but also get their friends together to make posters and other promotional items to encourage others to buy at the sale. The money raised at the bake sale can go toward a local charitable organization.
Have your child participate in putting together bagged lunches for those in need. Children can even have fun decorating the paper bags to be donated to homeless organizations all year 'round or during the holidays. This allows them to get creative and leave personal messages to those they are helping.
A wonderful family project that teaches children about giving back and donating their time is actually spending time serving others at a local soup kitchen. They get actual face time with those in need and learn about the value of donating time.
Don't forget that our furry friends need help, too. For older kids, encourage them to donate some of their time to walk dogs or play with animals at a local animal shelter. Shelters are always in need of food, toys and other cleaning supplies. You can contact your local humane society to see what they specifically need around the holidays.