Teaching Your Children the True Meaning of Charity

By Ann Jarema

According to a study by UCLA, it is believed that 3.1 percent of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40 percent of the toys globally.  And, the Huffington Post indicates that the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing (or more) each and every year. Let’s not stop there, as the Wall Street Journal states that Americans spend over $1 trillion each year on things they don’t need.

Those results are staggering.  As adults, if we are creating and living this life of excess, what kind of message are we sending to our children?  While giving a child many gifts might not create a sense of entitlement, not teaching children how to respect those gifts and to be thankful for what they have, will.

So how do we help create a sense of charity for our children?  It starts with us and our own behaviors.  If you sense that your children are showing signs of entitlement and a “want, want, want” personality, here are three easy suggestions to help teach them to “give, give, give.”

At least once per week, have your children do something that is nice for someone else.  For example, during the fall, if you see an elderly neighbor raking leaves, send your child over to help.  Not only will this be helpful, but it may also bring a sense of laughter and delight, for both child and neighbor.  And, it’s great exercise too!

Turn birthdays into an opportunity to give. Many organizations are looking for volunteers that can actually align well with a birthday party.  Feed My Starving Children (www.fmsc.org) has locations in multiple states and children aged 5 and older when accompanied by the appropriate number of adults over age 18, can pack food that is then sent to people in need all over the world.

Adopt a family during the holidays. Many schools and religious organizations adopt families in need and you can be assigned one person or an entire family.  This allows you to buy Christmas gifts for other family members that you are assigned.  You wrap and deliver them to drop-off locations.  These gifts are then delivered to the family before the holiday so that they have gifts to open on Christmas morning.  Children will enjoy selecting a special gift for another child, especially knowing that their gift may be the only present that child receives for Christmas.  If your local school or religious organization does not participate in such an activity, search online for “adopt a family at Christmas.”

When we make it fun for children to give to others, they find it an enjoyable experience that they want to continue, even into adulthood.  When we start early enough, our children make this part of their regular routine, and in many cases, look for additional ways that they can do something nice for someone else. 

Children will enjoy selecting a special gift for another child, especially knowing that their gift may be the only present that child receives for Christmas.

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