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“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity. It is about love. Charity and love are the same—with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.”---- Mother Theresa
About age three children start realizing that others have feelings, ideas, and emotions. Families can help children develop a sense of empathy, kindness, and caring for others. It’s a good time to start talking about what charity is and how the family shares time and treasure.
Philanthropic children can combine their little bit of money with adults’ funds. Many charitable groups list small items for children to sponsor. They can help purchase a brick for a new park or playground, part of a meal at the homeless shelter, or food for a rescue pet. It is even more effective if children can help deliver the gift to the people who will use it.
Psychologists point out it is important for children to learn that money can be used to accomplish something good rather than buying more goods or entertainment for oneself.
When families have a plan for charity, children learn the importance of giving and the responsibility of being a part of a larger world. They are more likely to join service clubs as teens and adults. The concept of giving to others, a prosocial behavior, is an important “protective factor,” something that kind of inoculates children while growing up and helps keep them out of trouble, according to research by Communities That Care.
Giving a Hand
Children may not be tall enough to pass out food, but they can donate their time to pass out napkins, smiles, or help clean up at a meal for elderly people who might be alone on Thanksgiving or any other day.
Charity also begins at home. They can start learning to give time to others by giving to their own family and relatives. Would a young child like to be held and read to for a while? Does Grandma need some help, perhaps raking leaves, visiting, talking on FaceTime or Skype, or playing cards? Older children can go to their grandparents’ house and offer to wash a few windows, dust, or clean out the refrigerator together.
Psychologists point out that often children become too insular when they play video and phone games that create their own world and characters. Instead, they suggest getting children out into the real world helping real people. The act of helping others stimulates the part of their brain that thrives on feeling good and being happy. Children learn to like helping others. It’s like eating chocolate. Caring about other people are lessons families have the power to teach their children.
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