In our age of consumerism, many grandparents worry that kids are more focused on getting than giving. But older relatives can have a positive influence in this area. Here are 5 steps to help your grandkids learn the importance of giving to others. (Before bringing up this — or any other — topic with your grandkids, be sure to discuss it with their parents.)
1. Teach by example. Starting at about age 3 or 4, your grandchildren's values and choices are shaped by the examples their parents and grandparents provide. You are their role models: What are they learning from you when it comes to giving? Children are frequently unaware when their elders are engaged in charitable giving — you write a check or do volunteer work when they are not around. Next time, explain to your grandkids how you chose a cause for a donation, tell them about the fun you had volunteering (or take them with you) or ask for a donation in lieu of a gift at birthday or holiday time. Don't be afraid to show that sometimes giving involves sacrifices of time and money. Show them with enthusiasm the pride and satisfaction that being generous brings you.
2. Charity begins at home. Help grandkids learn how to be giving by helping older family members or neighbors with chores. Encourage them to help their siblings with projects. When it's birthday party time, suggest that they ask their friends to bring a book or a toy to donate locally or give "giving cards" that encourage acts of kindness as party favors. Include a charity gift card they can use to make a donation to the charity of their choice along with your gifts to them. Work with grandchildren on a regular basis to give away clothing, toys, books and technology they are no longer using. Make sure they understand it's not just about getting rid of old things — it's about giving them to people in need.
3. Build on interests. We all feel more passionate about giving our time and money to causes that are meaningful to us. What are your grandchildren really into? Animals? Help them go to the local animal shelter to clean cages, pet and feed animals or donate towels, food or toys. Is the outdoors their great love? Show them how to donate to environmental causes or volunteer at a local park. Will they connect the most with other children? Introduce them to children's charities across the globe, or give them a Karito Kids doll, which includes ways to donate to international children's charities online. They can also get their friends and school involved in giving to other schools through Donors Choose, an online charity that connects donors to classrooms with specific needs.
4. Give together. Make giving a family tradition involving all generations. Get the whole family to save change in a big jar and together watch the nest egg grow; choose where to donate the sum at the end of the year. Help feed other families by sponsoring one, donating canned goods for a food drive or creating food baskets to donate. Have a family yard sale and donate a portion of the proceeds. Get active by volunteering together — in your community or in faraway places through volunteer vacations that incorporate structured volunteer opportunities in interesting places. Make giving a fun family activity and everyone will want to join in.
5. Make it a habit. Provide grandchildren with frequent opportunities to give and volunteer so that service becomes an ongoing and natural part of their lives, rather than an intermittent effort. Regularly schedule family volunteering expeditions. Ask their parents if you could add a little extra to their allowance and help your grandchild always set aside a portion for giving (as well as for saving and spending.) Children spend a lot of time online these days, so capitalize on that and help them find websites where they can learn about and choose charities. Feed their online game-playing habit by steering them to online charitable giving games, such as Child's Play. And don't forget the positive reinforcement for their efforts!