Research shows that giving rather than getting builds a strong foundation for children to thrive. Children who learn to give early are less likely to get involved in destructive behaviors and are more likely to launch successfully into adulthood. Giving fosters a healthy lifestyle, engages life skills, and makes us happier and more joyful people.
Ultimately, we know that giving generously is an expression of love for God and love for others. We look most like Jesus when we give.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we gathered 10 ideas from women who have shared the joy of giving with their families. We hope they help you nurture gratitude and generosity in your kids, whether you have toddlers or teens.
1- Share the Love
Keep a supply of note cards and stamps in a basket in the kitchen. Each day for a month, talk about who needs a word of encouragement. Help your child write a note, draw a picture, or include a photo or Scripture.
One family began child sponsorship on behalf of each daughter on her 5th birthday. On the 10th birthday, their family traveled together to meet their sponsored child. As the children played together the impact of consistent giving to someone else was felt through the whole family.
3- Reverse Birthday Party
Counter the consumerism mentality. Rather than having friends bring a gift to your child’s birthday party, help your child identify a charity that could use help and ask guests to bring a gift for the charity. Ideas include: a homeless shelter for mothers and children, a children’s hospital, or Ronald McDonald House.
4- Spring Break!
Opt to spend the week (or part of the week) at home. Each day visit a different charity in town. Allow your teen to bring friends along. Talk about the experience over dinner. One parent mentioned that her son used this as an outreach tool to live his faith in community with his friends.
One family dedicates the month of January each year to “survive” on the food from their pantry. The food budget is reduced to $10 per week and surplus is given to a charity the teens choose. The family gets creative with meals and experiences what it is like for families who live with less.
6- Pitch It
Challenge your teens to find one great charity doing something they are interested in. Let them make a pitch to the rest of the family over dinner regarding the charity they’ve learned about. One family plays charity poker with pennies. Each penny represents a dollar that the family has set aside for giving. As the pitch is made, each family member slides pennies to the center of the table to place on that charity.
7- Live Light
If your closet is anything like mine, it’s full. Several years ago, I heard the phrase “My excess is likely someone else’s necessity.” How true that we can only wear one coat at a time and only one pair of shoes at a time. Take one hour for each family member to pull the excess from his or her closet and go together to the local shelter to give. Talk about the joy of living light and sharing our extra.
8- Attend the Ball
When I was a child, my parents hosted missionaries in our home and took us to mission events. This gave me a global perspective far beyond the confines of my high school. Today, there are many opportunities to attend dinners sponsored by non-profits where you can hear from the men and women working on the front lines of causes and crises. Take your young adult to see and hear about the good work being done around the world, then talk about how you may want to give.
9- Make a Plan
Once a year, engage your children in conversation about how much the family can give this year. Teach them the three uses of money; spend, save, share. Help them consider with you what percentage of money and time the family should stretch to share this year.
10- Watch a Movie About Giving
My personal favorite is The Blind Side to teach about courageous giving. Les Miserables has a great message of giving when others may not deserve it. Get out the popcorn and enjoy watching the movie together leaving time for a discussion in the hours and days following. For shorter attention spans, consider a short video clip from ilikegiving.com
Steady modeling and rich conversation guide a lifetime of teaching empathy and love for others. Making it actionable can be fun. It’s never too late.