As parents, Brad and I strive to instill values in our children that will shape their character and contribute positively to society. We both work for nonprofits that are making a difference throughout the U.S. and the world has taught us that we value instilling a sense of gratitude in our children.
Encouraging our children to be compassionate and charitable not only benefits the world around them but also helps them grow into empathetic, responsible, and freedom-loving individuals. I would like to explore some effective ways that Brad and I have nurtured a spirit of giving in our children from an early age.
1. Lead by Example
Children learn through observation, I believe that parents are their most significant role models. I’ve learned that a parent must first demonstrate his or her own commitment to charity. Whether it’s volunteering at a local shelter, participating in a charity run at one’s temple or church, or making regular contributions to a cause we care about, it’s important that our children witness our own generosity and passion for helping others.
As anyone that follows me on instagram knows, I bring my children to different DonorsTrust grantee events. Our son, PD (9) has gone with Brad and me to the MPS meeting in Guatemala and to the Atlas Network Latin America Liberty Forum in Mexico City.
PD, at a young age, has been able to meet people from different cultures who are working hard for freedom in their respective countries. Now maybe I could have opened PD’s eyes to the greater world by taking him to a local food shelter, but we wanted to introduce PD to the charities that are nearest and dearest to Brad’s and my heart and took him instead to people fighting against socialism in Venezuela and fighting against gang violence in El Salvador.
2. Engage in Age-Appropriate Discussions
Initiate age-appropriate conversations about charity and the impact of giving. It’s important that we explain to our children the concept of charity and how it helps people in need. Why not discuss various charitable organizations and the causes they support, allowing our children to choose one that resonates with them.
By involving them in these discussions, we’ll encourage them to ask questions and develop a deeper understanding of the importance of giving. When Emma was in 9th grade and Andrew was in 12th grade, for Thanksgiving, our family hosted Alyssa, a senior in high school.
Alyssa had been kicked out of her home by her parents after they found out that she was pregnant. My children each had their own questions for me but, by hosting a girl in need, my children learned about the actions of charity, about kindness, and about generosity.
They learned that their family beloves in love and in caring for those in need in our community. Emma took the girl under her wing and even used her own money to throw a mini baby shower for Alyssa.
3. Volunteer as a Family
Engaging in volunteer work as a family can be a transformative experience. It’s important to look for local community events or charity initiatives where families can volunteer together. Whether it’s helping at a food bank, cleaning up a park, or organizing a donation drive, working side-by-side to serve others strengthens family bonds and fosters a sense of social responsibility in children.
This year, my mother passed away after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease. In her obituary, I shared my mother’s joy at going to the park with my then-8-year-old PD, and my dog Scooby. Knowing that PD’s school was in need of funds to grow this school park that my mother and PD enjoyed, we asked in her obituary that, in lieu of flowers, people donate to The Village School park that is being built.
PD and I were so touched when nearly 50 families donated to The Village School park in my mother and PD’s grandmother’s honor. What great joy my children will have knowing that a park that meant so much to my mother is being revitalized in her honor.
4. Celebrate Giving on Special Occasions
Incorporate giving into special occasions like birthdays and holidays. Instead of focusing solely on receiving gifts, we encourage our children to share the joy of giving with others. They can choose to donate a portion of their birthday money to a charity of their choice or participate in “giving back” activities during the holiday season.
These practices help shift the focus from material possessions to the value of helping others. As I hit a milestone birthday last year and, as of this year, lost my last living parent, this has been a time of reflection for me. There is not one more thing I need for Christmas or my birthday. Each year I usually tell Brad and my kids I’d like them to make me something.
I think Brad has tired of making rap songs for my birthday (although, he’s probably not tired of the kid’s giggles as he raps them to me) and Em is a bit exhausted by drawing the loving framed pictures she makes for me every birthday. Maybe it’s time for me to ask my family to volunteer in a soup kitchen as the gift they can give me, a gift they can give to those eating in the soup kitchen and, ultimately, a gift to themselves for the good it does a person’s heart.
5. Create a Giving Jar
Sometimes it’s time to start a family tradition by setting up a “Giving Jar” in one’s home. We encourage our children to contribute a portion of their pocket money or allowance to the jar regularly. At the end of each month or a specified period, we let them be part of the decision-making process of choosing a charity or cause to support with the collected funds. This practice empowers them to actively participate in making a positive difference in our community.
With four kids home from school this summer, we somehow have room for a jar on our kitchen counter where the kids can add money to be donated monthly to the playground that my mother loved so much at PD’s school. Twenty dollars every month may not seem like a lot to many people but PD’s smile when he is contributing to his classmate’s joy shows me this small act of charity is making a difference in my children’s lives.
6. Open a Giving Account for you Child
Parents and grandparents can open giving accounts for their children and grandchildren using DonorsTrust. It’s easy to take the money from the giving jar and put the money into a charitable-giving account where the funds can grow. Not only do giving accounts teach kids about the importance of saving and compound interest, they also give children a more holistic framework for their financial future and encourage kids to think about the charitable organizations they care about the most and how to allocate their hard-earned resources.
When Andrew graduated high school, I opened a DonorsTrust Novus Society account (giving accounts for young people) for him with $200. Every birthday, Christmas and graduation, Brad and I slowly contribute to this account and, through this account, Andrew is able to donate to the charities that matter most to him, whether it’s his alma mater, Hillsdale College, his past internship organization, the Cato Institute, or St. Rita’s, the church he now attends in Alexandria, Va.
Teaching children to give to charity is a gift that keeps on giving. By nurturing their compassion and empathy, we empower them to be active contributors to a better world. Leading by example as Brad and I hopefully do — engaging in open discussions as we did when a pregnant teen, Alyssa, came into our lives, involving them in giving decisions, volunteering together, and incorporating charity into special occasions such as birthdays and graduations — are all impactful ways to instill the joy of giving in our children.
I hope that you, too, embrace these opportunities to shape the next generation of thoughtful, compassionate, and charitable individuals. Together, I hope that we can make the world a better place, one act of kindness at a time.