How do you raise your child’s awareness of charity and charitable causes? This task can be especially hard in an aggressive ad-fuelled world that often tells us that to be happy we need to have more and keep more for ourselves.
It is here that charity really can begin at home:
From about the age of three, children can understand that other people have feelings. Teaching your child to be mindful of those feelings and not deliberately hurt others is how they will develop a sense of empathy. Empathy is the foundation upon which charity and charitable thoughts are built.
Modelling Charitable Thought
Your speaking well of others – especially when someone may have annoyed you – also teaches children charity of thought rather than being too quick to condemn. Your exploring gently why someone may have done something wrong (or were ‘naughty’) fosters kindness.
As your child gets older, this will be a useful life skill – the ability to look kindly on, and seek to understand, the circumstances and stories of others including the less fortunate.
Share and Share Alike
Encouraging children to donate toys or other possessions they have outgrown is an excellent opportunity to start talking to your child about those who are less well off in the wider world.
Widening the Charitable Net
This wider appreciation of charity can also be shown when you are out and about with your child by donating to charity boxes. Here, you can also demonstrate the generosity of time by stopping to speak with charity collectors about their particular cause or mission.
This humanising of charity can then form the basis of – or segue into – more in-depth discussion about your connection to your favourite charities and why you support them. Maybe a grandparent, relative or friend was injured in service to their country and enjoys or enjoyed the help of charities such as Help for Heroes.
Children love a good story and you can inspire them to make a difference to the story of others. You can support your child in becoming a mini-hero themselves by helping real-life heroes, such as Duncan Green.
Duncan’s time in the army ended abruptly when he was seriously injured whilst deployed on active service. There were many times Duncan wanted to give up, but a turning point was finding out about Help for Heroes. With their help, Duncan could finally let go, say goodbye to his military career and forge a new future through a love of cricket.
He says of those who support Help for Heroes:
“Without these wonderful people, many of us would not be able to have the lives we do now.”
Peer Support as a Beginning
By putting names and faces (or family stories) to charity, your child may begin to formulate personal giving ideas of his or her own. They may lean towards supporting peers closer to their own age, be that at home or abroad.
In some developing countries, for instance, poverty begins early in childhood where children are born into poor families. This cycle of poverty is one your child may feel a strong desire to try to end by sponsoring a child of the same age. A photograph of the young person being supported, along with letters to and from your child, will also aid them in putting another person’s life circumstances into context and perspective.
Money Isn’t Everything
Outside of financial donation, your child may also enjoy emulating your charitable actions. Dependent on age and with adult supervision, your child can be exposed to other avenues of charity and helpfulness.
For instance (but not limited to):
- Volunteering time at a church or local community centre
- Holding a collection box for a couple of hours on the weekend
- Spending time with an elderly neighbour or relative
- Running errands for someone temporarily or permanently housebound
- Reading to the blind or partially sighted
- Making gifts or putting together care packages for a local charity
- Responding to calls for help for emergencies both home and aboard
Or, closer to your child’s own world, simply befriending someone at school who does not have many, if any, friends.
There are many ways to teach your child about charity. The task is made easier as you model reaching out to others as a way of life. Seeing the spirit of giving in your home, including generosity of thought, will greatly affect your child’s awareness of charity and charitable causes in later life.