3 ways to encourage generosity in your children
14 May 2018
By Lorretta Sonz Cuff, Educational Community and Outreach Officer
From the cradle to the high chair to the passenger seat, our children are watching us. How we speak, interact, and care for those around us impacts the way they view others.
When my boys (12 and 15 years old) were young, we emphasised the basic principles of sharing and caring. As they grew older we adapted our dinner table conversations to include more of what was going on in the world around them, including the needs we saw and how we can respond.
Over pasta, we've talked about the difference between being generous with time versus money. How listening to others and understanding one another is more valuable than material possessions. Over pizza, we've discussed why and how we support causes that are important to us.
As a family, we look for practical opportunities where we can use our strengths and interests to help others, whether it's to put a roof over someone’s head, provide a warm meal or clothing, or offer financial support during hardship.
If you're reading this, then I assume you're like me. You hope to see your children grow up to be people with arms stretched out wide, people willing to extend a hand to a hurting friend or a hungry person. But if you're like me, you may not always know where to start.
So here are three ways to encourage generosity in your children:
- Model it
As the old cliché goes, "Actions speak louder than words." As difficult as it is sometimes (I'll be the first to admit that!), role modelling a generous spirit is the best place to start. Maybe you enjoy cooking meals for neighbours and friends who are facing hardships. Talk to your kids about what you're doing and why you're doing it. Do you financially support causes like Medair and others? Invite your kids into your giving and explain to them why you give a portion of your income away instead of keeping it.
- Make it personal
In my work with children and schools, I often have kids approach me after my presentation to ask how they can help. I usually ask them in return, “What do you like to do?” This has generated a lot of great ideas. One girl I met loved making bracelets for her friends, so instead of giving them away, she sold them and gave the profits to Medair.
Help your child identify what he/she is good at and use those skills to help raise funds for causes your family cares about. Like to bake? Host a bake sale. Love to sing? Host a concert in your living room. Love football? Set up a charity match with friends and family.
Get your children involved from start to finish and they will feel invested. But above all, remember to keep it simple because every effort counts, big or small.
- Get practical
Kids are very tactile creatures. They like to get their hands dirty. Simply talking about generosity and helping others can fall flat. But provide opportunities to put it into action, and kids will rise to the occasion!
This can be done right around the dinner table. For example, pick a country featured in the news facing significant hardships. Find a traditional recipe from that country's cuisine and prepare it together as a family. While enjoying your finished creation together, discuss the unique challenges facing people in that country.
This can also be done out in the community. When a child is old enough, sign up to prepare and serve a meal at the local soup kitchen. Being immersed in the setting, chopping vegetables, and looking people in the eyes as your child serves up a warm meal has a lasting impact that no lecture can compete with.
Generosity is empowering! I love my work with schools because it allows me to help students realise that harnessing their strengths and talents for the good of others is ultimately good for them too. I see a thirst for purpose in the eyes of the children – eager to know what they can do to help. And the good news? We can help quench this thirst right at home.
We'd love to hear from you. How have you encouraged generosity in your own family? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.
Interested in organising a Medair fundraising event at your child's school? Contact Lorretta at email@example.com. Would you like to volunteer at our headquarters in Ecublens? Please fill out this form and we will get back to you soon!