The giving season is all about acts of selflessness, and there’s nothing sweeter than seeing kids participate in all the goodness going around. Gift-giving, charitable contributions and noble volunteering efforts abound, and there are many creative ways to involve youngsters. When you do, you engage a part of them that doesn’t always develop naturally. In other words, exercising kindness produces kind kids — and what parent or caregiver wouldn’t want that?
Here are some practical ways you can cultivate thoughtfulness and empathy in your children.
When your own monthly routine displays selfless giving, kids grow up to believe that giving back is simply a way of life. The easiest way to raise kind kids is to live generously yourself.
Learn About Individual Gifts
Your strengths are likely not the same as your child’s. Pushing your creative kid to donate by analyzing data, for example, is probably a bad move. Before enmeshing your family’s volunteer time with an organization, focus on learning your kids’ unique strengths and interests. Children are more likely to stick with a role — even thrive in it — if it matches their soft skills. Not sure where to start? Grab a copy of popular kids’ book How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids from Gallup.
Try a Variety of Gigs
“… but I thought you love being outdoors!” whines another baffled parent to an equally confused tween. While finding your child’s passions and talents is indeed the first step to nourishing young activists, you’ll still want to offer kids various jobs at different charities before settling into a long-term commitment. So, yes, start by establishing your young one’s gifts, but then rotate around to different nonprofit positions before deciding which role fits like a glove. Some great examples of age-appropriate volunteer jobs for kind kids in training could include:
- Alphabetizing papers to file
- Cleaning facilities
- Emceeing events
- Distributing fliers alongside adult volunteers
- Running errands for seniors
- Tutoring other kids in a favorite subject
- Walking dogs for an animal shelter
- Routing phone calls or emails
- Organizing inventory
Know When to Let Them Soar
Be ready to recognize unconventional acts of goodness. If you’ve arrived at a soup kitchen to help ladle dinner as a family, but your kid only wants to play with the guests’ babies, recognize this as its own unique contribution. Or, when you’re trying to visit nursing home patients, and your child only wants to be the goofy center of attention, endeavor to appreciate the gift of their quirky entertainment. Elderly residents likely love their youthful energy (even if they’re acting a little too silly for your liking). While structure is good, remember: You’re volunteering with kids. So try to go with the flow. Keep an eye out for sweet moments and encourage zany beneficence when you can. Kind kids are those who feel capable when they reach out (or risk embarrassment) to help others.
Kids’ behavior may change on a whim, but character takes time and regularity to develop, especially the character traits found in kind kids: patience, thoughtfulness and generosity to name a few. Establish a routine of volunteering with and without your child so giving back becomes a natural part of your family’s rhythm.
How do you encourage kids to give back to others? Share this article with your coworkers and include your own favorite tips for making the most of the giving season with kids.