It's understandable that as parents, we want to shield our kids from the harsh realities of the world.
But I realized early on with my girls that cultivating the giving back concept is not only important, it's an opportunity to reinforce something that seems natural.
They pick up so much from adult conversations even when they don't get the specifics. As toddlers in diapers they were well aware of people and places in need -- I'm thinking specifically about the earthquake in Haiti -- and more than anything they wanted to help.
So why not make the helping a regular part of their lives? Here are a few practial ways to incorporate giving back into your kids' routine.
1. Explain when you see people in need. Help them understand how or why someone becomes homeless or why a family may need to sleep in a shelter.
2. Start in your backyard. Help an elderly neighbor. Drop off food. Walk someone's dog. When it's personal, they can understand it.
3. Donate toys and clothes every three months. Kids can relate to the idea of giving to other kids. Whether they're LEGOs they've outgrown or games they never even opened, encourage them to donate a few of their toys before they are allowed to restock. This is a win-win for all involved. Even if you set aside special pieces to save, there will certainly be a ton of everyday pieces that won't fit when the season comes around again. Bring your kid to drop off the goods and they'll feel proud.
4. Recycle. The environment is also an important issue for kids to learn about. They can do their part by putting things in the recycling bins.
5. Food drives. Most basic level kids understand if babies don't have enough to eat, they will go hungry.
6. Volunteer as a family. There are always church and school community service drives that you can participate in.
7. Find a charity that resonates with you and your family and set a goal to support it together. Organize a bake sale, then donate the money. Perhaps run a charity race or even answer letters to Santa from the post office. So many options depending on the time you have.
What other ways have you taught your children about giving back?
Image via Editor B/Flickr