Most of us want our children to understand the pain of others and work when they can to alleviate that pain. We want to encourage compassion in children. That is true whether in personal situations among their young friends or in helping them understand the needs of others far away.
One of the ways I help my children cultivate compassion is by encouraging them to give to charity. To keep the action from being too abstract, though, I try to help them understand the needs of others before they decide to give. Even if they give a very small amount, I want them to connect that gift and that feeling of giving with the need. It is in connecting with the needs of others where compassion grows.
We started charitable giving by giving to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, because we had read together the book that UNICEF published with Dorling Kindersley: Children Just Like Me. Just reading this book together to find out about the lives of children in other areas of the world helped my children to see a broader world than the one they saw everyday around them. That was part of our positive foundation.
When it came time to give, we looked at the projects UNICEF funded. Yes, I was guiding my children to give, but I left the decision to give to them. My daughter took her donation money to the post office to get a money order, then she mailed it with a note she wrote. Frankly, I’m sure it’s more difficult for any charity to process small donations that arrive by mail, but I think the concrete actions of the process were important in helping my daughter understand what charitable giving means.
Specifically talking about giving increases the likelihood even more than just modeling giving alone. A recent study, Women Give 2013, found that talking to children about charitable giving increases by 20% the likelihood of those children becoming donors.
Have you considered either donating to a charity with your children in order to cultivate their compassion and help those in your community?