Returning to school is too often a grand excuse to shop. From books and supplies to clothes and activity fees, we frequently get caught up in making sure our kids have not only everything that they need, but everything that they want, as well. If you’re a person of faith wanting to make a difference this year, this can be a great opportunity to demonstrate charity to your kids as they head back to class.
And we don’t mean it’s a great time to bestow the charity on them (unless it’s your forgiveness of any snarky behavior they might levy at you); we mean it’s an especially poignant time to take a step back and show your kids how they can help someone else instead of just themselves. Here are four ways you can teach your kids about charity among the chaos of their own self-indulgence:
The Giving of Thoughts
Before you begin your back-to-school preparations, ask your child these questions:
- Do you know anyone who might need help buying supplies and new clothes this year?
- Why do you think he or she needs help?
- How could you help?
It’s often difficult for a child to understand poverty and the other issues that contribute to “need.” But if you can help your child attach specific circumstances, emotions and needs to a person he knows, it highlights a personal connection that is harder for him to ignore. Sometimes, simply starting a conversation about someone your child knows is enough to jump start the empathy he innately possesses.
The Giving of Presence
Provide an opportunity for your child to be a friend to someone new. Talk about kids in his or her class who might need extra support and invite them to your home or the movies or out to eat. It could be someone with parents going through a divorce or who is fighting an illness or facing a recent death in the family. It could be a child with a troubled or impoverished home life. Whatever the trouble, being present for people during a difficult time is a wonderful way to focus attention outward and on others’ experiences and history rather than inward and on your own.
The Giving of Gifts
Consider the best way to provide physical relief to a specific person or group in your community and have your children join you in providing it. Purchase a backpack and fill it with supplies to give to a local school. Grab an extra pair of shoes to donate when you buy your kids their own.
Offer to pay for someone’s groceries for the month so he or she can focus funds on other expenses. Pick out some extra notebooks and pencils in fun colors for teachers to have on hand. Save an allowance for someone else. Big or small, gifts are physical reminders for your kids that there are people out there in need.
The Giving of Service
It’s one thing to provide an item; it’s another to provide a service. All children should learn to help others with their actions and not just their (or your) money. Like being present as a friend, children should also join efforts that actively alleviate a specific need within their community. They could serve at a soup kitchen or help a local school or church clean up their grounds or tutor a struggling student. Doing something – anything – forces kids to witness need directly, as well as learn how they can be part of a solution.
The start of a new school year isn’t just a time to scurry around doing what you and your kids want to do. Check out this article if all you want is to learn how to save money on school outfits. But if you want to really make a difference, implement these tips and help your kids see how they can help change the world.