Teaching children about giving to others

Teaching children about giving to others

During the holiday season, sometimes kids get overcome with serious cases of the “gimmies”. They get so focused on getting, that it seems like they don’t understand that the season can also be about giving. But the holidays can be a great time to teach children about giving to others. One study found that children were 20% more likely to give to others when their parents had talked to them about giving.

Even very young children can participate in helping others. Here are some suggestions about things you can do to teach children about giving (and receiving).

  1. Share your own experiences. Talk to your children about your own experiences with giving to others. The study mentioned above showed that this makes it more likely that your children will give. If you donate to organizations, tell them about those and why you give. Try to be specific. For example, instead of telling your kids that you give to a local food bank because “it’s the right thing to do”, you could tell them that not everyone has enough food and everyone feels better when they have a full stomach. You can let them know that people need help sometimes, and that it is nice to be able to give them that help. Older children can hear the sorts of reasons people might need help, like losing a job.

 

  1. Involve children. Let children become involved in an actual giving project. For example, at this time of year, there are a number of organizations that host giving trees for individuals and families. Locally, the ARC of Lane County hosts a giving tree as do other organizations. Even young children can help out. Again locally, the organization Little Hands Can hosts service projects for kids who are preschool-aged and older. Children can start their own donation box in the home that they can put their gently used clothing and toys into so that these can be donated to others. Or they can collect pennies for a variety of projects. For a list of other possible activities check out this Parenting post. And check out this post for useful tips on how to choose volunteer activities for children.

 

  1. Let children pick a cause. Children are more likely to get involved and give if the projects align with their own interests and hobbies. For example, if your child likes to sew, he might want to make pillowcases for the Million Pillowcases Some families might even give their children an amount of money to donate to an organization that they choose, as the family in this story did. Some families designate a portion of the children’s allowances that can be given to an organization that the children choose. There are lots of different ways to do this and some good suggestions can be found here.

The important things to remember are that even 3-4 year-olds can understand the concept of giving to others and that if you want your child to give to others, you need to talk to them about it. You can help kids conquer the “gimmies” and develop their own sense of the “givies”.

 

Katherine Pears
Dr. Katherine Pears is a senior scientist at Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC). She earned her Ph.D in clinical psychology and has worked with OSLC since 1998. Katherine is the principal investigator and co-developer of the Kids In Transition to Schools (KITS) program. Currently, she oversees all the clinical and research activities for KITS. When she’s not in her office, you’ll find Katherine in the kitchen whipping up her latest creation or outdoors hiking a scenic trail.

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