As the holiday season gets underway, one of the hardest things to do is figure out how to teach your child the value of giving. For many children, this time of year is all about what they are getting. But by placing more of a focus on giving this holiday season, you’ll be helping your child grow up to be a compassionate adult with well-rounded money management skills.
Set a strong example
As with all things in life, your child will follow your lead when it comes to giving. Do you set a strong example? My son sees me write out the tithing check for our church donations. I also make it a point to have him help me gather items for the food bank—and then deliver them. In addition, my husband and I talk about different charities in our home.
Let your child see that you are giving—and that you enjoy it—and he or she will want to give as well.
Get your child involved
Children like to participate, and you can involve them in your efforts. When my family participates in Sub for Santa or Angel Tree programs, I get our son involved. We choose a boy close to his age, and then we encourage our son to help identify fun gifts for him. We also ask our son to kick in a few bucks to help out. That way he is financially as well as emotionally involved.
Another thing we do is encourage our son to carry pocket change during the holiday season. That way, when we pass a Salvation Army Santa, he always has some coins to put in the bucket. Even though he’s 10 now, he still gets immense satisfaction over being able to contribute to the collection tins around town this time of year.
Helping your child participate in these activities builds habits of generosity and can provide a solid foundation for future giving. Make sure you draw attention to the fact that you both feel good when you give. You want your child to recognize that giving has many benefits.
Practice gratitude in your family
Focusing on what you already have, and expressing gratitude regularly, can help your child develop a giving mentality. If you are always talking about what you want at your house and what you hope to get, it’s hard to show the value in giving.
Make sure that you spend time talking about what you are grateful for and recognizing your good fortune. In our home, we frequently talk about how lucky we are and express contentment with our situation and gratitude for what we already have. This outlook fends off the “gimmies” and fosters a general feeling of inward happiness, rather than looking outward for more material possessions.
Once you have established that you are grateful for what you have, it’s possible to move to recognizing that others need help. Your gratitude is likely to prompt actions that result in giving to others—an important part of helping your child learn.
The bottom line
We want our children to grow up to be financially responsible and to give to others when they can. However, these generous impulses require nurturing. If you make giving a part of your life and encourage your children to participate, they will grow up to manage their finances in a way that leaves room for charity.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the co-author of Community 101: How to Grow an Online Community, and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.