At this time of year when we reflect on our blessings and receive requests to help others in need, it is natural to also wonder, “How we can instill in our children the desire to help others less fortunate?” Like many of the values we would like to instill in our children, there isn’t necessarily a proven formula or set of steps that guarantee we will be successful. Le Bonheur Memphis CHiLD (Medical Legal Partnership) Senior Attorney Tim Flack and his wife, Bridgette, share a few ideas that have been helpful for their family.
Take advantage of teachable moments on gratitude.
The foundation for encouraging your kids to help others is to first instill in them a sense of gratitude for the blessings your own family enjoys.
One way we have found helpful is to have each person share at the dinner table one good thing that has happened to them during the day. This often leads us to a discussion of how blessed we are as a family and to discuss people we know who may need our prayers or help.
Another way is to use your children’s own natural curiosity. Often while driving around town we will see people with signs asking for help and our kids will ask us a number of questions centered on the person’s condition and why they are asking for help. Again, this provides us a golden opportunity to discuss our own blessings as well as allowing the children to think of ways we can help this person in need – usually they ask if we have money to give or if we can go and purchase food for the person.
Make it a priority to regularly volunteer to help others.
On any given day, there are numerous places of worship, civic organizations, schools, etc. that are seeking volunteers to help with any number of worthy projects to help others. Many of these organizations welcome and even encourage families to come together to serve. Going together as a family not only gives the kids an opportunity to take an active part in helping others, but they also get to see you modeling that helping others is a priority for you as well.
Keep it simple and fun.
Teaching your children to help others doesn’t necessarily have to always be a large or time consuming project done on a regular basis. One of the things our kids have most enjoyed is to go on a “treasure hunt” which involves grabbing some garden gloves for everyone and a garbage bag and walking down our street picking up “treasures” a.k.a. litter. It doesn’t take much time, but the kids love seeing who can find the most treasure and they are excited to be helping our neighbors and keeping our neighborhood clean.
Ultimately, teaching your children the value of helping others is like teaching them any other important value, children often learn best by example. If you want your children to learn to help others make service to others a priority in your life.