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Well-roundedness is about more than just education. It’s also important to teach our children values. That’s why every year Kids Village holds the Humanitarian Haunt, which raises funds for a family- or child-related charity. This Haunt is more than just a fun event; it’s an opportunity to share charity with our student and to open conversations about giving.

Teaching children about charity can feel like a large and abstract concept to broach, but we broke it down into a few different goals with tips that we think will help.

Help your child understand charity

When children are two or under, they’re typically unaware that other people have feelings, needs, or emotions. However, when a child is around 3 or 4, they begin to develop the cognizance of empathy. It’s a good idea to take that opportunity to introduce the idea of charity to your child.

Relate it to a time they needed help. Children understand needs–they feel the emotion of needing something multiple times a day. Talk to them about a time they felt hungry. You can say something like “We are so fortunate to have so much food in our house and to have such nice meals when we are hungry. Some children don’t have food when they are hungry so they have to keep feeling hungry for a lot of the day. If we can find ways to help them by donating food in our local food drive, we can help them have food in their home when they are hungry.”

Find concrete examples in their everyday life. Talk about their favorite toys and how some children aren’t as fortunate to have toys to play with. Or how they have warm coats in winter but some families don’t have warm clothing.

Help your child develop an eye for seeing those in need

Help your child become more aware of noticing people around them who may be in need or for opportunities to help.

“Did you notice someone who needed help today?” After school, you might make a habit of asking the question “Did you notice someone who needed help today? And did you help them?”

***As a safety note, it’s also important to let your child know that a grown-up will never need help from a kid who is alone or only with friends. If a grown up asks for help, especially if your child feels a “funny feeling,” they should yell “no!” and run to find a grown-up or a trusted adult like a parent, teacher, or police officer.

Show them by example. One of the strongest ways your child will learn to notice people in need and appropriate (and safe) ways to help them is by learning by example. When you see someone in need, let your child see you helping. Use your words to tell your child how you noticed that person needed help and how you knew the best way to help them, and (of course) back up what you say with actions.

Cultivate a habit of charity. By developing a routine of charity in your household, you’re helping to cultivate a habit of charity in your children.

  • Let them help you picked out canned food for a food drive
  • Have them tag along when you participate in a walk for charity
  • Make a family activity out of walking dogs at the local animal rescue
  • Shop together for a gift for a giving tree during the holidays
  • Let them help you put together and deliver care packages to homeless shelters
  • Work together to make fleece blankets for homeless shelters or for animal rescues
  • Have a box or basket set up somewhere where your child can donate clothes or toys
  • Keep a jar in your home where your child can put part of their allowance or loose change (make sure to let them participate in the act of depositing the money in the bank and sending/delivering the check to the charity)

Regularly engage in everyday service activities. Let your child help you rake the neighbor’s leaves, shovel snow from their driveway and steps. Bake cookies for servicemen and women and deliver it to their stations.

Charitable Events

Charitable events can be confusing since they can feel like just another fun event. It’s important to talk about the purpose of the event before, during, and afterward.

  1. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the purpose of the event. Have you ever shown up at a family fundraising event and not really had a good idea of what the event is actually about? Without a clear understanding yourself, it can be difficult to simplify the main details to a child. Knowing the following before the event begins can make it easier to have a conversation with your child.
    • WHO is the event benefiting? (charity, beneficiaries of the charity)
    • WHAT does the charity do? (they help _________ receive/achieve _________)
    • WHY do the beneficiaries need our help? (because they lack___________/because they have experienced or are experiencing ________)
    • HOW will participating in this event benefit those in need? (every dollar raised will be used to _____)
  2. Have a conversation before the event begins. Let your child know what the event means and who it’s helping.
  3. Talk about the charity during the event. It’s easy to get caught up in the bustle of a charitable event and to forget why you’re there, but if you consciously take moments to explain why what you’re doing is important, then you can instill the purpose of the event in your child. (i.e. “People donated baskets of goodies for this silent auction–that means they gave these things for free. When we give money to buy one of these baskets, all the money goes to help families of children who are sick. The people who donating these baskets are helping by giving these things to the silent auction, and we are helping by donating our money to the charity by buying one of the baskets.”)
  4. Let your child participate in the giving. Your child is probably used to their parent or caregiver pulling out their wallet to pay for things. By letting your child earn a few dollars to buy an item at the bake sale and by letting them put the family check into the donation jar, they’re realizing that they, too, have a part in helping the charity (that it’s not just another time mom or dad to pull out their checkbook).

Do you have any questions about simplifying charity for your child and helping them understand giving to those in need? How do you have conversations with your child about charity? What does your family like to do to participate in charitable giving? We’d love to continue the conversation in the comments below.

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