How to teach your kids to learn to love giving

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It's important that we teach children about the benefits of giving.

It comes as no surprise that the pandemic has caused some young people to retreat and become anxious about the state of the world. One way to help them re-engage and to connect with a community is to develop their charitable skills.

Thinking of others who are disadvantaged or taking up a worthwhile cause can be healthy as it develops a young person's empathy, compassion and engagement. It helps them understand that they are part of a community and that it's good to care for each other and contribute to that community.

how to teach your kids to donate to charity

As they grow older, they might give their time to help cook meals for the needy, or work at a charity, nursing home or childcare centre.

There are many charities and worthwhile causes that can fire up the imagination of even the most self-absorbed or disconnected child.

A simple way to encourage charitable giving from a young age is to divide pocket money into different parts, such as spending, saving and giving. Most of the time kids focus on spending and, if you're lucky, some saving.

When you put money aside to give away, you can have a regular conversation about what causes they might want to support. It doesn't have to be very much. The suggested amount for adults is 3%-5% of their income. If kids are receiving $5 a week, then they can put 20c away for giving. Over the year, this will add up to $10.40.

Let them know that small amounts add up. Give examples such as the money raised from passengers on Qantas flights who pop their small change into the supplied charity envelopes. They have raised $31 million over 26 years for UNICEF, which helps disadvantaged children throughout the world.

Often kids find a cause that is meaningful to them, or you could suggest one that would resonate.

Never underestimate their generosity.

I know an 11-year-old who raised $1000 from friends and relatives when she shaved her head. Her grandmother had cancer and she donated her sponsorship money to cancer research. Another raised money for the deaf, because her two siblings lived with impaired hearing.

A popular cause is endangered koalas. If you adopt a koala with the World Wildlife Fund, you receive an adoption certificate, a fluffy toy and a fact book.

There are numerous stories from adults about how community service changed their view of the world and, in some cases, their career choice.

Check how much of your child's money goes directly to the people in need and how much goes to the charity's administration.

Schools and religious organisations do a great job at encouraging kids to support good causes by raising money and promoting charities.

Islam is a good example: one of its five pillars is that all Muslims donate at least 2.5% of their accumulated wealth to help the poor and destitute. It is known as "zakat" and it's one of the largest forms of wealth transfer in the world.

My kids' school runs the Forty Hour Famine event and students pay $1 for retrieving lost items. The money helps support two World Vision children - one in Africa and one in Asia. It currently costs $48 a month to support one child. The school only gives a reference to final year students if they do a worthwhile community service for nine months.

Some leadership programs, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, insist on a certain number of hours of volunteering, as well as physical activities and skills.

There are other ways to help the community that don't involve money: visiting elderly neighbours and taking along a cake; or bundling up unwanted clothing items and donating them to a charity.

As they grow older, kids can also donate their time.

A homeless man holds out a cup for donations December 23, 2020 in New York City. The number of homeless single adults is estimated to be 115 percent higher than it was ten years ago. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

Connecting with the homeless

My children used to ask about the homeless men and women who lived in the park near their inner-city school and the man who had a mattress and sleeping bag in the deserted doorway across the road from my office: "Why is he sleeping there?".

It was an opportunity to explain how shameful it is that our rich society lets people live on the streets. I was proud that their school collected food and clothing for the homeless.

At around that time, I would buy The Big Issue from John, a vendor near my work. He had appeared in an ABC documentary on homelessness, so I felt as if I knew a bit about his life. John liked to chat. Sometimes my kids would be with me, and they would hear about his traumatic young life. It had an impact on them and as young adults they always buy The Big Issue as they know what it means to the vendor.

The Big Issue gives a hand up to people who can't earn a meaningful income because of a wide range of circumstances such as homelessness, physical and intellectual disability or mental illness.

It helps builds their confidence and connect them with the community.

Half the money they earn from selling The Big Issue magazine goes to the vendor, so that they are 
helping themselves.

Alan Attwood, editor of The Big Issue for more than nine years, has been presenting education workshops to help schoolkids understand homelessness and disadvantage.

During the workshops, he introduces a Big Issue vendor who has experienced homelessness first-hand.

Each Big Issue vendor tells their story about how they ended up living on the streets.

"It gives kids a different perspective than the one they may have had," says Attwood. "It shows them that it may not be the person's fault."

Some vendors speak about their lives, which began like any other kid but then took a bad turn, ending in homelessness and poverty. The kids can ask questions.

"You could see it sinking in with some of the kids. I am impressed by kids showing a bit of empathy and sympathy," says Attwood. "I love the fact that there is a connection."

He hopes the kids will go home and educate their parents about homeless people. Perhaps it could also influence their career decisions later in life.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.

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