Teaching Kids to Give Back

6 Oct

I’m constantly talking to my kids about ways we can help others.  It can be a hard concept to teach children, because it also involves trying to instill in them an appreciation for everything they have.  I think those two ideas go hand in hand: you have a lot, while some people have nothing.

Since my kids are so young (3 and 5), they don’t always get it.  Or maybe they do, but it’s not at the forefront of their minds.

Last week the four of us were at a school function, a fabulous ice cream social with NINE different bounce houses and ice cream.  It was a blast!  But instead of seeing all of the great stuff around him, my son got upset that we didn’t win anything from the raffle.  We told him that we were all winners – we just got free ice cream and bounce houses!  Woohoo!!  Unfortunately, that didn’t do much to improve his mood.

I wasn’t upset with him – I mean, he’s 5 and just wanted to “win” something.  But it gave us a great opportunity to talk about what we were grateful for.

And even though they may not always “get it,” I feel like those messages will sink in eventually.  I believe that if I keep hammering those ideas home, they will sneak into their little brains and some day become part of how they think and feel.

And of course, the best way to demonstrate giving to your children is to DO something yourself!  They learn by watching you, even more than by listening to what you tell them.  (That whole “Do as I say, not as I do” adage?  Doesn’t work with kids.)

Every year my husband and I hold a Halloween food drive.  This will be our 5th year to do it.  I can’t remember the exact moment that the idea came to us, but it was something like, “Hey, we’re going door-to-door for trick-or-treating.  Let’s collect canned goods while we’re at it!”

We put out fliers around our neighborhood and start taking collections at the beginning of October.  (Some people prefer to drop off donations at our house if they’re not going to be home on Halloween.)  Then, on Halloween night, at least a dozen of our family and friends join us for our trick-or-treating food drive.

Our kids are a big part of it.  We talk constantly about how this food is going to help people who are hungry, and they get excited about that.  They also eagerly run up to each door, asking for donations.  We always end up filling our wagon several times over throughout the evening!

I won’t lie; the food drive is a LOT of work.  But the reward is amazing.  We end up with hundreds of pounds of food, which we donate to a couple small food pantries in our area.

I do this to help alleviate hunger, and the added bonus is what it’s teaching my kids.  We don’t expect anything in return – we don’t win any prizes, we don’t earn money.  We drop off our food at the food banks and never see it again; basically, we leave empty-handed.

But we all smile anyway, knowing that we’re helping others simply because it’s the right thing to do.

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