One of the most frequent conversations I have with other parents is around raising our kids to be thoughtful and empathetic vs. entitled. Yet, our children are who most innately embrace the true definition of philanthropy: love of humankind.
Philanthropy helps solidify family values, communication, and trust. By deciding together where to spend your time, talent, and/or treasure, children can learn leadership, decision-making, confidence, organization, empathy, and more.
In raising my daughter, Sophie, I’ve focused upon her cultivating a sense of gratitude and kindness. Through countless botched “teaching moments” and breakthroughs, here are some nuggets I’ve learned along the way:
- Lead by Example.Talk about your philanthropy. Talking about giving increases by 20% the likelihood that children will give. This holds true across race, gender, and age. When appropriate, have your kids join in when you volunteer.
- Show Enthusiasm and Support for their Interests.Encourage children to get involved in a cause they care about, or better yet, create opportunities to collaborate on the cause. Explore options together: charitable giving, volunteering, or being of service with your unique talents.
- Make It a Family Affair.In our busy family lives filled with sports, homework, play dates, and more, engaging in philanthropy is a great way to spend quality time as a family while helping a worthy cause and instilling core values. When your family has decided upon what cause you would like to support, commit to year-round service, even if only quarterly, and choose times to evaluate impact upon the organization you’ve supported, and the impact upon your family. This can be formalized with creating videos, scrapbooks, and children reporting back at your family gathering: “What I learned this year about the cause, and about myself.”
- Use books, movies, and other mediums to discuss giving. Throughout children’s books, television shows, and movies, the theme of giving often appears. Use these mediums as springboards for deeper conversations with your child about what it means to give, how it feels to receive, and why giving is important.
Shameless plug: My daughter and I co-created a philanthropy/acts of kindness children’s book to inspire conversations around giving back and the yummy feeling it creates in our hearts. Aimed at a pre-K through elementary-school audience, The Secret Adventures of Anonymouse is the story of a tiny mouse with a big heart, and the transformative power of anonymous good deeds upon a community. While Sophie is simply the original Anonymouse, the vision is to inspire countless “Anonymice” to pursue their own kindness adventures.
In honor of Random Acts of Kindness Week, February 12-18, you can share your child’s random act of kindness on our website for the chance to win a school visit by the original Anonymouse! Sophie Lynn will go to one lucky winner’s school, girl scout troop or other group of your choice for a reading of the book and interactive activity including creating kindness superhero masks! Either way, Sophie will personally respond to every submission!
Like most parents, generosity and empathy are values I wanted Sophie to cultivate to help make the world a more kind and loving place in which to grow up. We invite you to join us!