How to teach kids about giving back

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When I was a child, the idea of “giving back” meant donating toys I didn’t play with anymore and putting money in red kettles at the front of stores. My family took food to the local food bank and my parents helped me buy gifts for kids listed on tags hanging from the giving tree in the mall. We didn’t have a lot ourselves, but my parents always made sure we knew what “giving back” was and that there was always room in our hearts for others.
Now I have kids, and my oldest is starting to understand that there are families without food on the table, a place to live or toys to play with. Instead of getting caught up in the commercial side of the season and feeling pressure to get the kids everything they want, I know we need to teach them about helping and sharing with others. As Fred Rogers said, “The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings.”
This time of year, my social media feeds and email inbox tug on my proverbial heartstrings with requests to help those less fortunate. It’s overwhelming sometimes because there are so many worthy causes, and I wish we could help everyone. I encourage you to research the organizations you plan to support. Charity Navigator and GuideStar are two websites that can help you find a good fit. If you shop on Amazon, check out AmazonSmile, which donates a portion of the cost of your Amazon purchases to a charity of your choice.

To narrow the focus and help inspire our youngsters to “give back,” we sat down as a family and made a short list of things we can do to help others this year:

  1. Donate nonperishables to a food drive
  2. Make gifts or give flowers.
  3. Make freezer meals for our friends expecting a baby
  4. Donate clothes the kids have outgrown

The list is short but attainable; as the kids get older, our list will get longer. Everyone in our family can participate. As Daniel Tiger says, “Everyone is big enough to do something.”

PBS KIDS for Parents offers some other resources to help kids get into the spirit of giving. Check out these articles:
What are ways you inspire your children to give back?
Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season!

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