(This story is reprinted from Neale Godfrey's original article on Forbes. Original print date: August 26, 2017.)
You can’t discuss handling money responsibly without discussing the concept of giving. Charitable giving is a subject close to my heart and something I have emphasized to my children since they were young. It is a lesson with great impact to a child or young adult and, again, is an opportunity for you to impart your personal values to your youngsters.
Charitable donations can be made in many ways. From giving spare change to a homeless person on the street -- powerful visual lessons are critical for a child to see that there are less fortunate people than themselves. It is also important to give to a specific charity that you and your child have selected together.
While giving money to the less fortunate is important, I also want to discuss perhaps the most precious gift of all, the gift of time and consideration. “Volunteerism” is a crucial concept for our children. When your child volunteers to help others, they become empowered by their acts and very aware of their link with the community. And as my Four Jar Budgeting System shows us, charity is a key element of managing your finances responsibly.
Giving Of Your Heart Pays Off
Explain to your child that volunteer work can be fun. With that in mind, you may want to look for something that matches your child’s talents or interests. For instance, if your child is interested in soccer, they could find a pre-school program that needs help supervising the children. When my kids were young, on Christmas morning, we went into a local hospital and helped to serve meals to folks who were in need.
Watching the news together, talking to friends, or just helping your child observe the world around them can help uncover volunteer projects that are appropriate and will interest them. You can research opportunities online.
Kids’ volunteer groups are in every school and house of worship. And, there are dozens of places right in your town where your child can work a few hours a week to help others. My son volunteered at a senior living facility to play Scrabble with the residents. He did get fired; however, when the seniors felt that he was just letting them win. He was really upset when he got back home and exclaimed, “They thought I was throwing the game their way; they didn’t understand that I just can’t spell.”
Empower Your Children To Be The Change
Tip 1 – Put A Stake In The Ground
Start by making a commitment right in your community. Let’s say your children want to raise money for a local “cause.” Make sure your child just doesn’t complain about a problem or expect someone else to do something about it. You want your child to decide that they can make an impact and that they are dedicated enough to work to do something about the problem. Next, set a goal. Have your child spell out, in one simple sentence, what their goal is. For example: “We, the kids of Newark, N.J., want to raise money for a children’s playground in town so we can have a place to play.”
Tip 2 – Make A Schedule
Your kids need to set a date to accomplish their goal. (This is important; imagine if their teacher said; “Just hand in your homework whenever you’d like!”) Have your child set a realistic date for completion and a timetable for subgoals to be met along the way.
Tip 3 – Create The Marketing Pitch
Your child might need to convince people that a new playground is needed. Maybe they could poll the kids in the neighborhood to see where they are playing or hanging out now. They could write down their stories, describing how they are now playing in a parking lot, and use that information to support their plans.
Your child may be surprised to find that a lot of their friends agree that a playground is needed and those friends would be willing to help get the project rolling.
Tip 4 – Keep It Simple
Volunteer projects can range from painting and repairing neglected homes, helping older neighbors with home maintenance, teaching someone how to use the computer, or volunteering at the local library. I’ve seen young volunteers at community charity runs, handing out drinks to the runners. Last year, I saw a gang of kids weeding a public garden.
Remember, it’s important to get permission to do any public project you’ve planned. Most communities have volunteer programs, as do civic organizations, churches, mosques, and synagogues. If you’re having trouble coming up with a project, give one of them a call. They will love to hear from you.
Focus On The Teachable Moments
Most of all, remember that volunteering to help others instills positive values in your children that will stay with them their entire lives. You are showing your children that they can make a difference. By volunteering, they can learn what it feels like to give of themselves and be part of the community. What a great gift to your children! I love the sage words of the actress, Sarah Bernhardt, “Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.”