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How to Teach Your Kids the Importance of Giving Back

Ideas and resources to teach kids an attitude of gratitude.

In light of the recent earthquake and disasters in Japan, a lot of talk at our dinner table has centered around helping others and being grateful for what we have. My husband and I frequently talk to the kids about giving back but we always feel like we need to do more and want to find ways to get the kids more involved in activities that help others.

Writing a check to support a charity is definitely one way to help. We always tell the children when we donate money and why we liked that organization. Every year we buy a Christmas gift for a needy child from the YMCA  or Palatine Township Giving Trees. The kids go shopping with us to buy the donated items. We also donate money to the World Wildlife Fund every Christmas to support an endangered animal. The kids love the cool, endangered stuffed animal thank you gift. Every year before Christmas, we donate our used toys and clothes to charity. By doing these things consistently, they have become a giving tradition in our family. The kids actually ask about when they are coming up.

Our kids also love one of our Church fundraisers for a local Women’s Shelter. They hand out plastic baby bottles and ask people to fill them with all loose change around the house. Our kids love searching the house for coins to put in the bottle.

But as a family, we would like to do more hands-on work where we can show the kids how our efforts make a positive impact. Some of the activities that we are involved in offer some great opportunities to give back to the community. With our son’s Cub Scouts troop we have packed care packages for our troops with Operation Yellow Ribbon and we've sorted food at the Palatine Food Pantry. When our kids were taking piano lessons, every year their teacher had the kids perform a Halloween concert at a local nursing home. The residents love to see the kids in their costumes playing music. We have helped to clean up the local forest preserve with my daughter’s Adventure Guides group.

We found a wonderful site, MomItForward.com, that is all about changing the world one Mom at a time. The site has a wealth of great suggestions on how to raise giving children.  What we love about the Mom It Forward suggestions is that they remind us that we should all be practicing more random acts of kindness at home. It’s important to help strangers, but it is also important and really easy to help those we love.

Some other resources include volunteermatch.org, where you can type in your zip code and interests and find a list of opportunities to volunteer in your community. If you are looking for information on how the family can be more Green, check out the Dr. Seuss Lorax Project, which teaches kids to save the environment and endangered animals. Finally, GenerationOn.com has some great information on how kids can help make a difference. There's some good information on how kids can help in Japan. 

What do you and your family do to give back? If you know of any great opportunities for families to volunteer together, please list them here. Any advice on volunteer projects for kids by age?

Brenda Cyr March 30, 2011 at 06:06 PM
My family volunteers at Feed My Starving Children in Schaumburg. It is something that the family can do together and it truly does make a difference in the lives of children in poverty.
Sue Kirchner March 30, 2011 at 07:09 PM
Thank you for that suggestion. I haven't heard of that organization so I'm going to go check it out. What types of activities can you do as a family?
Monique Zipperich March 31, 2011 at 12:21 AM
Every month our family meets and decides where/why/how to donate; together and separately our time, money, clothes, books, toys etc goes to various organizations. This scheduled monthly activity gives us a sense of community at home and around the world. We are looking forward to learn more about Feed My Starving Children in Schaumburg. Peace - Monique Z.
Karin OConnor March 31, 2011 at 01:50 AM
As Hallie has gotten older, new opportunities to volunteer have become possible. At age 12-13, we can help groom and socialize animals waiting for adoption at PAWS, and we recently participated in a group outing to pack food at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. We're trying to start a youth group at our church, and I'm going to check into Habitat for Humanity--a number of my college-age friends are doing builds as "alternative" spring break projects, and I'm hoping they have a program for high school kids, too.
Sue Kirchner March 31, 2011 at 11:26 AM
Thanks Karin! Those are some great ideas. Teens or college-age kids helping out at Habitat for Humanity during Spring Break is such a cool idea. Not only a great learning experience but what fun to work on such an important project with friends and family.
Sue Kirchner March 31, 2011 at 11:29 AM
Monique, thank you for always sharing your ideas on the Moms Talk posts. We appreciate it. Scheduling a time every month to discuss charitable opportunities is a really smart idea. Like you said it gives you a sense of community, gets the kids involved in the process, and it gives you some structure so you don't forget. I like it!
Melanie Santostefano (Editor) March 31, 2011 at 11:42 AM
Another great and local charity is PATH. They assist families experiencing crisis when other agencies such as the school system, police and social service agencies have no additional resources to help. My daughter has volunteered for them before, and I will ensure that she does it again. Volunteering can also satisfy the community service requirements at both PHS and Fremd. They are always looking for more volunteers, young and old. Their website is www.path-palatine.org and you are able to sign up to be contacted when the need is there.
irma April 19, 2011 at 09:40 PM
Another great way is by discussing choices with them. CharityChoice has some great programs for gift giving and they all offer the recipient a choice. Looking through the different categories and then understanding what the organizations do are great conversation starters for kids. Kids love the on-line aspect and you can also share charity gift card on Facebook with them too. Great birthday gift or favor idea. www.ccgiftcards.org

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