Of the many things I try to teach my daughters, perhaps one of the most meaningful is having a giving heart. We have so much to be thankful for, and as much as her little heart can grasp I want her to be thankful and pass along good fortune to others. Over the past year I have involved her in a number of charitable donation projects including Champions for Kids, Operation Christmas Child and adopting four families for Christmas.
This holiday season the Boys and Girls Club of America is giving back by holding the 2nd annual Give The Gift Of A Great Future campaign. The campaign focuses on encouraging children to give back.
In 2012, BGCA kids performed more than a million hours of community service. To celebrate this great achievement, BGCA Clubs were invited to enter their service projects in the Kids Give Back Contest and a chance to win $2,500. Projects included environmental clean-ups, spending time with senior citizens, planting public gardens, even volunteering in Haiti.
You can get involved too by playing the giving game on the BGCA website. When you win, the BGCA kids win because every winner means an item donated (free to you) to a BGCA club. I played a couple of times and when I “won” a school pack, $1 and a pack of seeds all to be donated on my behalf! It takes only 30 seconds, so I encourage you to “follow your heard” and play the game.
The Boys & Girls Club of America offers these tips to involve your children and teach them about giving back:
1) Talk about giving. Tell your kids which causes you’re supporting this year and why. Better yet, make the choice together. Or give each child a portion of what you plan to donate this year and allow him or her to choose the charity.
2) Read books about giving. Try The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen, I Can Make a Difference by Julie and Amanda Sexson or a selection from Learning to Give’s Annotated Bibliography of Children’s Literature.
3) Volunteer together. Whether serving a meal at a soup kitchen or lending a hand at an animal shelter, volunteering helps kids learn compassion – and it’s a great way for families to spend time together. Check with your child’s school, your religious institution, a local Boys & Girls Club or The Volunteer Family for project ideas.
4) Encourage routine volunteering. Contributing regularly to an organization they choose can be meaningful, showing kids that they have the power to make a difference. This is especially true for teens. Support them by providing transportation or extra allowance for expenses, if needed.
5)Do something fun, like cooking or an art project. Even very young children can make cards for senior center residents or help you bake a tasty treat for a neighbor. These are perfect ways to have fun while thinking about others.
6) Tell family stories about philanthropy. Talk about times when your family has helped someone in need, or times when your family has received help.
7) Acknowledge and celebrate all kinds of giving acts. Whether your child volunteers, donates allowance, helps a friend or neighbor, or is simply being kind to a sibling, be sure to praise the effort.
8) Be enthusiastic! Boys & Girls Club kids who are active in community service say they’re inspired by the adults in their lives who give back, too.
9) It’s o.k. to offer incentives. Especially for young children, food or prizes can help sweeten the deal when you’re asking them to spend time working for a cause.
10) Make philanthropy a family value. The holidays are a natural fit for giving, but causes can use your support in other seasons, too. Look for opportunities throughout the year to reinforce the idea that helping others is important. Boys & Girls Club teens who are passionate about community service said it was critical to hear this message repeatedly from the adults in their lives.
It is never too early (or too late) to begin teaching your kids empathy and about the importance of giving back to our community. By involving them in projects you are working on and showing them how you give back, you will instill in them a giving heart – the greatest gift of all.
I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Boys and Girls Clubs of America. I received a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.