By Bruce MacDonald
The greatest gift parents can give this holiday season is generosity itself.
By doing little things that inspire their kids to give back, parents can bestow a legacy of generosity that will improve the quality of life for their children and their community.
A new national survey, commissioned by Imagine Canada, sends a powerful message of hope for our future. A majority of Canadian parents (89 per cent) believe it’s important to inspire their kids to give to charities. Eight-in-ten (79 per cent) also see charitable giving as an essential holiday season experience for their children and teenagers.
Other key findings:
82 per cent understand children or teenagers who regularly give to charities are more likely to grow up to become happy, caring individuals
89 per cent agree it is important that children and teenagers understand that charitable giving benefits everyone by making communities stronger
77 per cent believe it’s important to provide their children with opportunities and encouragement to give a portion of their allowance to charities of their own choice
This broad recognition of the value of raising kind and generous children has enormous implications. Imagine a future where the next generation stands up in vast numbers to support charity. Ours would be a society in which everyone is valued and no one gets left behind.
When you think about it, empathy is one of the most important life-skills we can give our children. In very real ways, our future quality of life depends on it.
Here then are 10 ways to raise charitable children:
Talk to your kids about giving back – Charitable giving should be regularly discussed. Emphasize to your children and teenagers you expect consideration for others. Whenever they give back, acknowledge them. Get the ball rolling by holding a family meeting to set a giving strategy. (Hint: the holidays are the perfect time!)
Be a role model – When you give or volunteer, make sure your children are aware of your gift. Describe the personal satisfaction that comes from helping others and involve them in your giving decisions.
Align giving with your child’s interests – Children and teenagers will gravitate to charities that reflect their interests. If your daughter loves to read, suggest an organization that advances literacy. If your son is athletic, recommend a charity that helps less fortunate kids acquire sports equipment. If your teenager cares about the environment, propose a “green” cause.
Encourage your kids to connect with charities – Getting to know a charity is the best way to understand its true impact. Direct engagement also significantly increases the likelihood of a long-term commitment. Suggest going online, attending events and personal contact to ask questions. The most effective charities always welcome inquiries and dialogue.
Set a budget – teach your children from an early age to give a portion of their allowance to a charity of their choice. The classic technique is to label containers “save”, “spend” and “give”. Then help your kids decide what percentage of their money should be allocated to each container. When enough money is saved ($10 is sufficient), let them donate.
Expose your kids to the real world – When disasters strike or difficult community issues arise, talk to your kids about the hardship being experienced and how they can help. This could involve assisting the most vulnerable in your community or donating to a hurricane or earthquake relief fund. Opening your children’s eyes to hardship makes them understand how fortunate they are and realize they can make a difference.
Encourage volunteerism – Generosity is not just about donating funds. It’s also about personal involvement and engagement. Volunteering can be the most powerful empathy-building experience of all. A great way to amplify the impact of volunteering is to get them to talk about how they feel about the experience.
Make giving back a family or a group event – The holidays are all about the spirit of giving. Find a cause and volunteer as a family. With teenagers, you can also encourage them to organize a group of friends to help out. Volunteering at a homeless shelter or food bank, for example, will make your family holiday experience unforgettable and create memories that will last a life-time.
Give year round – Instilling philanthropy as a life-long value requires regular acts of generosity. Look beyond the holidays for opportunities. A great way to do this is to encourage your kids to establish a relationship with a charity and donate and volunteer over time.
Keep the end goal in sight – Stay focused on the idea that it’s all about inspiring compassion as an intuitive reaction. Remember charitable kids become adults who create goodness within their families, personal circles and communities. They, in turn, will bestow their own legacy of generosity to their kids.
This holiday season give your kids the gift of generosity by inspiring them to donate, volunteer and engage with their charity of choice.
Over time, we can all make Canada the best place in the world to raise a family.
Bruce MacDonald is president and CEO of Imagine Canada, the national charitable organization whose cause is Canada’s charities and nonprofits.