Children are natural born helpers, but their eagerness to help dwindles as they get older. Teaching charity is a great way to nurture their natural tendency to help and to foster a strong, lasting sense of caring in children.
When it comes to teaching children to be charitable, role-modeling isn’t enough. Having focused, intentional discussions with children about charity increases the likelihood that they will give, according to a study by the United Nations Foundation and the Women's Philanthropy Institute at IUPUI.
The study suggests using “open dialogue, thoughtful conversations and age-appropriate explanations” to encourage children to give. Ensure the discussions are “others-centered” - focused on how their giving benefits those who are being helped - in order to emphasize the significance of charitable giving.
Benefits of Teaching Children to Give
Why is it important to teach children to give? Charity builds empathy, which is a critical social and emotional skill. Additionally, children who regularly lend a hand do better in school, are healthier and are less likely to try drugs, according to a study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Research also shows that helping others gives children a feeling of empowerment, which in turn builds their confidence and self-worth. And, the earlier they start charitable work the better, as early experiences lead to increased benefits and a long-term commitment to helping others.
7 Tips for Teaching About Charity
Charity starts at home, as the adage goes, but educators can help instill a strong charitable spirit in their students. Consider the following tips for teaching students about charity:
● Emphasize the importance of charitable giving. As mentioned earlier, focus on how students’ giving positively impacts those on the receiving end. This helps to foster a healthy sense of compassion and responsibility for others.
● Help students understand that charity is more than just giving money. Many people donate time or items in lieu of money. It’s important to note that everyone can give, regardless of their income.
● Incorporate charitable giving into the curriculum. Use a variety of learning activities and materials to teach students about charity. This Charity Enrichment Kit includes books and interactive lessons that incorporate language arts, math and creative arts. Learning to Give is another great resource with 1,700 lessons to inspire K-12 students to make a difference.
● Give students ownership over their charitable actions. When choosing a charity to donate to, consider students’ passions and values. In addition, arrange it so that students give out of their own resources, and not their parents’, over which they have control. Donating their toys or a fraction of their allowance makes students active participants in their charitable actions.
● Find opportunities that align with students’ skills and abilities. If volunteering time, identify opportunities that allow students to be hands-on based on their abilities and restrictions. This helps to make the experience more meaningful for students and more impactful for those who are being helped.
● Cultivate kindness in the learning environment. Praise students when they show generosity and empathy to others, like lending a classmate a pencil or sharing words of encouragement.
● Allow time to reflect after giving. Reflection is an opportunity to initiate conversations about charity. Teach students to think about why they are charitable and what it means to them. Discuss how charity impacts those who are helped and how it makes them feel to donate their time, money or other resources. This may also be a good time to share examples of charitable “heroes,” like Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi.
Being charitable not only benefits those in need, but it also offers a range of physical, mental and emotional benefits for the giver. Charitable giving boosts students’ confidence, health and happiness. Use the tips above to help transform your students into caring, charitable citizens.