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October 10, 2013

OUR VIEW: Talk to your kids about charity

Anyone who’s been around children knows that they are naturally giving, even though that doesn’t always apply to their toys. Children will see someone in need or someone hurting and go out of their way to help, whether it be to give a hug or even let you play with a beloved toy to make you feel better.

So, how do you teach children to keep that giving spirit into their adolescence and adulthood? Well, one study suggests that words speak louder than actions.

Recent research by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute found that talking to children about charitable giving has more of an impact on children’s giving than what the researchers call “role-modeling.” Parents may be giving to charities and volunteering for charitable activities in the community, but that’s not how to get through to children on the matter of charitable giving, the researchers found.

To the parents who want to raise charitable children, here’s the researchers’ advice: Participate personally in charitable giving and volunteer throughout your child’s early and adolescent years, and then talk intentionally about your philanthropic values and practices.

By doing so, your children will be 20 percent more likely to give to charity. And this advice applies regardless of the child’s sex, age, race or family income, the research found.

If you’re wondering how you should go about talking to your kids about giving to charity, the study has offered some answers:

• Parents need to ask themselves, “Do my children know that I give to charity? Do they know which charities I give to? Do they know why I give, and why I give to those specific charities?”

• Conversations should be intentional, specific, and focused on the emotional benefits of those who are being helped. For example, saying to a child, “If we help people who do not have food, they will be happier in life than if they were hungry all the time,” is a more effective way to convey the importance of helping others than saying, “We need to feed the hungry because this is the right thing to do,” or “we need to share our food with those less fortunate than us.”

• Conversations should emphasize how the child’s giving explicitly will impact others.

Because children are naturally charitable — the study found nearly 90 percent of children between the ages of 8 and 19 do give to charitable causes — these conversations will likely be easy to have.

And in the end, not only will you and your child benefit, but the community as a whole will thank you.

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