From school plays to soccer practice, Fall is a great time to learn new skills and life lessons. Here’s another one to add to the list: helping others.
“There’s so much focus on charitable giving around the winter holidays that we forget that charities are really in need all year long,” says KnowMore TV child/teen development expert Robyn Silverman, Ph.D.
As adults, we know that giving can feel even better than getting. But kids need a little help discovering that truth — and learning that not everyone has the life they do. “We want to raise children who are conscious that other people are not in the same place we are, and do not have the things we have, and that makes it our responsibility to help them if we can,” says Dr. Silverman.
Here are her suggestions to get your family started:
Conduct a pantry raid
Take a few minutes to open the cabinets together and pull out canned or boxed food that never seems to get eaten. If you come up empty-handed, the next time you’re at the grocery store, let your child choose something to give to a nearby food bank — and go there together to make the donation.
RELATED: How to Raise an Honest Child
Clean out the closet
Now is to good time to winnow clothes. Your kids have been dressing for school for a couple of months now, so they — or you — should have a pretty good idea of stuff they’re just not wearing. As you go through the closet together, help your kids answer the question, “Does this do more good in my closet or out of my closet?” says Dr. Silverman. “If it’s a favorite sweater, then it’s doing you a lot of good. If you never wear it, it’s not serving a purpose, as it will in someone else’s closet.” Bring outgrown clothes, old backpacks, etc., to a local shelter.
Leverage their interests
“My kids are very into animals,” says Dr. Silverman. If yours are too, find out from a local animal shelter what they can do, whether it’s helping Mom walk one of the shelter dogs, helping with chores or cleaning, or bringing over old blankets or towels for the animals’ cages.
Think school supplies
When your child needs more school supplies, or the school puts out a distress call for help, go shopping together — and have your child consider what a shelter child might need, such as crayons and glue sticks. “Look for things that would be exciting for someone to go to school with,” says Dr. Silverman.
Help an older adult
Giving can include time and talents. Perhaps an elderly neighbor needs help in the yard or garden, or help with fixing something in the house (with their permission and yours). If your child likes to read, visit a senior center and offer to read to some of the residents.
Emphasize the benefits
No matter what project you choose, help your child see, or at least imagine, the impact he’s having, says Dr. Silverman. “Make the whole idea come alive that someone benefits from their giving. Ask your child, ‘How does it feel to know that a little boy or girl is going to be carrying your backpack to school? They didn’t have one and you provided it,’” says Dr. Silverman.
Or tell him, “I want you to imagine a boy your age who doesn’t have what you have. He has never had anything as cool as your [Monsters, Inc./Star Wars/dinosaur] comforter in the basement or attic. He’s going to have something cool on his bed for the first time because you gave it to him.” If possible, ask the shelter/pantry/hospital to write a short note to your child explaining how his donation or time was used or appreciated.
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