Put the “Giving” into “Thanksgiving”

1

Thanksgiving_Gratitude

Ten Tips to Help Parents Plant the Philanthropy Seed

This Thanksgiving, help your children to follow in the footsteps of the holidays original Pilgrim and Native American celebrants by giving generously to others.

On Thanksgiving, many Americans are preoccupied with turkeys, parades, football games, and even Black Friday sales. It seems that over time, this holiday has become more about getting thingswhether thats food, entertainment, or bargainsthan about giving thanks for what we already have. If youre like most parents, you dont want your kids to grow up focused solely on themselves, concerned only with the latest video game or with how they can get their way. You want them to feel genuine gratitude for the blessings they have and to demonstrate thought and concern for others.

Im convinced that the me generation isnt as egocentric at heart as its made out to be, he confirms. However, kids do need to be guided in a positive direction, and often, that starts in the home. Parents are the greatest influencers when it comes to developing their kids habits and behaviorsincluding cultivating a desire to give and to help others. If they see you giving back as a part of your regular life, theyll learn that behavior and carry it with them into adulthood.

Ready to help your child take the first steps from selfishness to selflessness? Then read on for ten ways that parents can get their children geared up for giving back:

  • Explain philanthropy to your kids. Before you and your kids get into the proverbial trenches, its important to first help them realize that giving back doesnt just mean donating money, and that generosity is not limited to giving away things you no longer want. Its important, especially when kids are young, to start with the very basics of why its important to give. For example, you might ask them, If you did not have enough food to eat or warm clothes to wear on a cold day, wouldnt you want someone (even if you did not know them) to help you so you got the food and warmth you needed?
  • Kids will usually do what you say they should while theyre under your roof, but they wont continue to pursue philanthropy throughout their lives unless they understand the why behind it, Patkin confirms. Explain the charity work you do to your child. Tell her why you do it and who it helps, and keep an open dialogue going in your household to help her understand whats going on. The more questions your child has (and you answer), the better grasp shell have on the concept.
  • Its never too early to start (dont wait until your kids are old enough). Empathy is a concept that children can learn from a very early age, so look for and take advantage of teachable moments. You can start with something as basic as encouraging small children to share with one another. Ask them to consider how theyd feel if they didnt have a toy, and how their feelings would change if a friend gave them one, for example.
  • You can find ways for children to volunteer their time at any age, all year round, says Patkin. Smaller children can help to sort recycling or contribute to decorating posters for a bake sale or other event. Once your kids get a little older, they can donate a portion of their holiday or birthday money to a charity, or they can choose a toy to donate to needy children. You can also involve your children in philanthropy through family-wide activities like sponsoring an underprivileged child during the holidays and helping to buy his back-to-school supplies, or going as a group to visit nursing home residents. This year, you might even volunteer to work at a soup kitchen before or after your own Thanksgiving meal.
  • Make it a part of everyday life. As most parents know, youll probably never have as much time or money as youd like, so waiting for just a little more of either is futile. When it comes to giving back, there is no better time to start than now, using what you already have! You dont need to possess unlimited time or money to get involvedyou can find smaller, simpler ways to make helping others a part of your everyday routine.
  • When many people think of philanthropy, they picture big-money donations and orphanages founded in third-world countriesand those things certainly qualify, Patkin acknowledges. However, the everyday efforts of ordinary people can also have an incredible impact. Just remember that since parents need to model good behaviors, youll need to walk the talk that youre giving to your kids. The next time youre grocery shopping with your children, for example, buy some extra canned goods and drop them off at a food bank on the way home in preparation for the Thanksgiving rush. Then encourage your kids to be giving during their own everyday tasks, whether that means sharing art supplies or helping clean up.
  • Get kids involved in the process. The more you let your children become involved in the philanthropy process, the more theyll be invested in what youre doing. Bring your kids in from the beginning by allowing them to help choose which organizations the family volunteers for or donates to. Theyll feel more connected to the cause, and even the youngest members can be involved, even if it just means tagging along.
  • Its a good idea to sit down with your kids and ask them to identify a problem that they want to fix, suggests Patkin. If theyre very young, you might give them a few options to choose from, such as feeding people who are hungry or getting winter coats for people who dont have them. Then you can all work on finding a corresponding organization. You might also think about volunteering to organize a charity project for your childs classroom in order to kick off a giving ganga group of peers doing charity work together. This will encourage the type of positive peer pressure the world needs more of!
  • Reinforce the value of a random act of kindness. Giving back is not always about a charity organization, a monetary donation, or volunteeringin other words, things you schedule. Kids need to understand that having a heart for others, at its core, is a way of life, not a series of appointments on your calendar. Show them that helping someone else and not expecting anything in return can happen anytime, anywhere. (You might even use the original Thanksgiving story to illustrate the value of reaching out to others, especially those who are different from us.) In fact, its often the small everyday acts that give us the biggest returns in terms of fulfillment and happiness, and they are things that are easy for kids to recognize and take action on.
  • Guide your kids by pointing out opportunities for them to take the initiative in engaging in random acts of kindness, instructs Patkin. When youre out shopping, encourage them to help an elderly lady load her groceries into her car, and then offer to return her cart to the corral. Likewise, prompt your child to hold the door for a woman pushing a baby stroller, or whisper that he might offer the last piece of pizza to his younger brother. Soon, your kids will hopefully be taking the initiative all on their own!
  • Understand (and explain) that philanthropy is not one-size-fits-all. Kids naturally have more aptitude for some activities than others. The child whos a natural artist may be stymied and bored by the intricacies of baseballand the same principle is true when it comes to giving back. Its important to tailor philanthropic work to a childs personality and interests. For example, you wouldnt take your daughter to the animal shelter if she were afraid of dogs larger than a throw pillow!
  • Just as the projects individuals take on arent one-size-fits-all, neither are the needs of the people these projects work to benefit, Patkin points out. Its important to explain this state of affairs to your child, especially if she is younger. Talk with her about how different people and situations have different needs. Some might want a hot meal, for example, while others may want someone to listen to their problems. Some places need clothes while others benefit more from monetary donations, and so on. Help her to understand why its important for her to match her talents, passions, and beliefs to these needs.
  • Theres no substitute for real-world experience.Encouraging your kids to earmark a percentage of their allowances or to donate some of their lesser-used toys to charity is a good startbut dont stop there. If your children can see where their donations are going and how theyre actually helping others, the giving experience will be much more real. Consider taking a family trip to visit recipient organizations so that your children can see where the money goes.
  • Visiting charitable organizations in person tends to take giving to the next level, Patkin shares. Whether youre seven or seventy, youre much more likely to stay involved in philanthropy if you can see how your efforts are actually making the world a better place. In order to keep the memories fresh, make a scrapbook of your childs volunteering experiences. Also, you can look for real-world philanthropic opportunities that connect to your childs interests and activities. If he has a school reading list, for example, you might tie projects into the books hes reading. If one of them is about dogs, volunteer at the animal shelter!
  • Make it a family affair. When you give back as a family, your kids will see Mom and Dad as role models. Bonus: Youll all grow closer to each other because of this shared experience. Commit as a family to spend two days per month working with a charity or doing something to help otherseven if that just means helping out elderly neighbors or volunteering at the church yard sale. You might also work together to raise money for a walk, fundraiser, or other project, then walk together on race day, or go together as a family to present the money youve raised.
  • As with any change, start small and take baby steps, encourages Patkin. While you may not be ready to give up your family vacation for a volunteer trip, you can eat in one night and use the money you saved on eating out to help feed the homeless. After projects or events, always be sure to have a family meeting where you sit down with your kids to talk about what youve done, how it made them feel, and how it helped others. Helping your kids to acknowledge the accomplishment and the good feelings associated with philanthropy will encourage them to continue their involvement. Again, I encourage you to kick off this initiative during the Thanksgiving holiday. There are plenty of organizations that would welcome a familys worth of helping hands.
  • Help your kids to focus on how good it feels to give back.Everyone likes to feel good, and kids are certainly no exception! When they feel good about something, theylike youwill want to do it again. In fact, that good feeling will be the impetus that keeps your kids motivated to continue helping others even after youve relinquished oversight of their daily schedules. Help them to focus on how fulfilled they are when they are doing something to help others.
  • Zero in on the warm fuzzies by talking about the excitement your kids are feeling on the way to donate that box of toys, or how happy they were when they were thanked for serving food at the local soup kitchen, Patkin suggests. Even more importantly, talk about those experiences fairly often to remind your children of how wonderful they were. Helping kids to acknowledge their philanthropic accomplishments and the good feelings associated with them will really encourage them to get hooked on helping!
  • Make sure that your expectations are realistic. At the end of the day, kids are still kids. You cant expect them to always want to donate their toys or to be able to sit still and pay attention through every single event or presentation. (Be honest with yourselfsometimes your own attention wanders, too!) Be conscious of your childrens ages and capabilities, and (without being too quick to exclude them from an activity or event that might not be fun from start to finish) keep in mind that your budding philanthropists are still kids.
  • In other words, dont let yourself become frustrated or discouraged if your children dont immediately embrace the idea of volunteering on a Saturday afternoonpersevere even if they continue to voice their preference for staying at home for weeks to come, Patkin advises. Any good behavior or habit takes time to cultivate, so be very aware of how you address situations when your kids act less than perfect. You want them to relate their experience as a positive one, not one in which they let you down or were punished.

Ultimately, raising children who understand the value of giving back and whose lives reflect that knowledge is one of the most philanthropically minded things parents can do, and this holiday provides the perfect opportunity, Patkin concludes. Dont forget that Thanksgiving isnt just about thankingits about giving as well. After all, the original celebrants gave their food and friendship to one another, and helping others is an American legacy Id like to see continue. And from a parental point of view, youll be amazed at how rewarding it is to raise philanthropists, and how much stronger giving back makes your relationship with your kids.

About the Author: Todd Patkin grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy.

November 18, 2014

Leave a comment

One comment

  1. Ms. Lisa Lutzsays: November 23, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Thank you for the wonderful article. The sentence in the article that says, Its often the small everyday acts that give us the biggest returns in terms of fulfillment and happiness, and they are things that are easy for kids to recognize and take action on. How true that statement is, and hopefully not only for children to practice, but for adults too. Happy Thanksgiving by giving thanks!

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Ten Tips to Help Parents Plant the Philanthropy Seed

This Thanksgiving, help your children to follow in the footsteps of the holidays original Pilgrim and Native American celebrants by giving generously to others.

On Thanksgiving, many Americans are preoccupied with turkeys, parades, football games, and even Black Friday sales. It seems that over time, this holiday has become more about getting thingswhether thats food, entertainment, or bargainsthan about giving thanks for what we already have. If youre like most parents, you dont want your kids to grow up focused solely on themselves, concerned only with the latest video game or with how they can get their way. You want them to feel genuine gratitude for the blessings they have and to demonstrate thought and concern for others.

Im convinced that the me generation isnt as egocentric at heart as its made out to be, he confirms. However, kids do need to be guided in a positive direction, and often, that starts in the home. Parents are the greatest influencers when it comes to developing their kids habits and behaviorsincluding cultivating a desire to give and to help others. If they see you giving back as a part of your regular life, theyll learn that behavior and carry it with them into adulthood.

Ready to help your child take the first steps from selfishness to selflessness? Then read on for ten ways that parents can get their children geared up for giving back:

  • Explain philanthropy to your kids. Before you and your kids get into the proverbial trenches, its important to first help them realize that giving back doesnt just mean donating money, and that generosity is not limited to giving away things you no longer want. Its important, especially when kids are young, to start with the very basics of why its important to give. For example, you might ask them, If you did not have enough food to eat or warm clothes to wear on a cold day, wouldnt you want someone (even if you did not know them) to help you so you got the food and warmth you needed?
  • Kids will usually do what you say they should while theyre under your roof, but they wont continue to pursue philanthropy throughout their lives unless they understand the why behind it, Patkin confirms. Explain the charity work you do to your child. Tell her why you do it and who it helps, and keep an open dialogue going in your household to help her understand whats going on. The more questions your child has (and you answer), the better grasp shell have on the concept.
  • Its never too early to start (dont wait until your kids are old enough). Empathy is a concept that children can learn from a very early age, so look for and take advantage of teachable moments. You can start with something as basic as encouraging small children to share with one another. Ask them to consider how theyd feel if they didnt have a toy, and how their feelings would change if a friend gave them one, for example.
  • You can find ways for children to volunteer their time at any age, all year round, says Patkin. Smaller children can help to sort recycling or contribute to decorating posters for a bake sale or other event. Once your kids get a little older, they can donate a portion of their holiday or birthday money to a charity, or they can choose a toy to donate to needy children. You can also involve your children in philanthropy through family-wide activities like sponsoring an underprivileged child during the holidays and helping to buy his back-to-school supplies, or going as a group to visit nursing home residents. This year, you might even volunteer to work at a soup kitchen before or after your own Thanksgiving meal.
  • Make it a part of everyday life. As most parents know, youll probably never have as much time or money as youd like, so waiting for just a little more of either is futile. When it comes to giving back, there is no better time to start than now, using what you already have! You dont need to possess unlimited time or money to get involvedyou can find smaller, simpler ways to make helping others a part of your everyday routine.
  • When many people think of philanthropy, they picture big-money donations and orphanages founded in third-world countriesand those things certainly qualify, Patkin acknowledges. However, the everyday efforts of ordinary people can also have an incredible impact. Just remember that since parents need to model good behaviors, youll need to walk the talk that youre giving to your kids. The next time youre grocery shopping with your children, for example, buy some extra canned goods and drop them off at a food bank on the way home in preparation for the Thanksgiving rush. Then encourage your kids to be giving during their own everyday tasks, whether that means sharing art supplies or helping clean up.
  • Get kids involved in the process. The more you let your children become involved in the philanthropy process, the more theyll be invested in what youre doing. Bring your kids in from the beginning by allowing them to help choose which organizations the family volunteers for or donates to. Theyll feel more connected to the cause, and even the youngest members can be involved, even if it just means tagging along.
  • Its a good idea to sit down with your kids and ask them to identify a problem that they want to fix, suggests Patkin. If theyre very young, you might give them a few options to choose from, such as feeding people who are hungry or getting winter coats for people who dont have them. Then you can all work on finding a corresponding organization. You might also think about volunteering to organize a charity project for your childs classroom in order to kick off a giving ganga group of peers doing charity work together. This will encourage the type of positive peer pressure the world needs more of!
  • Reinforce the value of a random act of kindness. Giving back is not always about a charity organization, a monetary donation, or volunteeringin other words, things you schedule. Kids need to understand that having a heart for others, at its core, is a way of life, not a series of appointments on your calendar. Show them that helping someone else and not expecting anything in return can happen anytime, anywhere. (You might even use the original Thanksgiving story to illustrate the value of reaching out to others, especially those who are different from us.) In fact, its often the small everyday acts that give us the biggest returns in terms of fulfillment and happiness, and they are things that are easy for kids to recognize and take action on.
  • Guide your kids by pointing out opportunities for them to take the initiative in engaging in random acts of kindness, instructs Patkin. When youre out shopping, encourage them to help an elderly lady load her groceries into her car, and then offer to return her cart to the corral. Likewise, prompt your child to hold the door for a woman pushing a baby stroller, or whisper that he might offer the last piece of pizza to his younger brother. Soon, your kids will hopefully be taking the initiative all on their own!
  • Understand (and explain) that philanthropy is not one-size-fits-all. Kids naturally have more aptitude for some activities than others. The child whos a natural artist may be stymied and bored by the intricacies of baseballand the same principle is true when it comes to giving back. Its important to tailor philanthropic work to a childs personality and interests. For example, you wouldnt take your daughter to the animal shelter if she were afraid of dogs larger than a throw pillow!
  • Just as the projects individuals take on arent one-size-fits-all, neither are the needs of the people these projects work to benefit, Patkin points out. Its important to explain this state of affairs to your child, especially if she is younger. Talk with her about how different people and situations have different needs. Some might want a hot meal, for example, while others may want someone to listen to their problems. Some places need clothes while others benefit more from monetary donations, and so on. Help her to understand why its important for her to match her talents, passions, and beliefs to these needs.
  • Theres no substitute for real-world experience.Encouraging your kids to earmark a percentage of their allowances or to donate some of their lesser-used toys to charity is a good startbut dont stop there. If your children can see where their donations are going and how theyre actually helping others, the giving experience will be much more real. Consider taking a family trip to visit recipient organizations so that your children can see where the money goes.
  • Visiting charitable organizations in person tends to take giving to the next level, Patkin shares. Whether youre seven or seventy, youre much more likely to stay involved in philanthropy if you can see how your efforts are actually making the world a better place. In order to keep the memories fresh, make a scrapbook of your childs volunteering experiences. Also, you can look for real-world philanthropic opportunities that connect to your childs interests and activities. If he has a school reading list, for example, you might tie projects into the books hes reading. If one of them is about dogs, volunteer at the animal shelter!
  • Make it a family affair. When you give back as a family, your kids will see Mom and Dad as role models. Bonus: Youll all grow closer to each other because of this shared experience. Commit as a family to spend two days per month working with a charity or doing something to help otherseven if that just means helping out elderly neighbors or volunteering at the church yard sale. You might also work together to raise money for a walk, fundraiser, or other project, then walk together on race day, or go together as a family to present the money youve raised.
  • As with any change, start small and take baby steps, encourages Patkin. While you may not be ready to give up your family vacation for a volunteer trip, you can eat in one night and use the money you saved on eating out to help feed the homeless. After projects or events, always be sure to have a family meeting where you sit down with your kids to talk about what youve done, how it made them feel, and how it helped others. Helping your kids to acknowledge the accomplishment and the good feelings associated with philanthropy will encourage them to continue their involvement. Again, I encourage you to kick off this initiative during the Thanksgiving holiday. There are plenty of organizations that would welcome a familys worth of helping hands.
  • Help your kids to focus on how good it feels to give back.Everyone likes to feel good, and kids are certainly no exception! When they feel good about something, theylike youwill want to do it again. In fact, that good feeling will be the impetus that keeps your kids motivated to continue helping others even after youve relinquished oversight of their daily schedules. Help them to focus on how fulfilled they are when they are doing something to help others.
  • Zero in on the warm fuzzies by talking about the excitement your kids are feeling on the way to donate that box of toys, or how happy they were when they were thanked for serving food at the local soup kitchen, Patkin suggests. Even more importantly, talk about those experiences fairly often to remind your children of how wonderful they were. Helping kids to acknowledge their philanthropic accomplishments and the good feelings associated with them will really encourage them to get hooked on helping!
  • Make sure that your expectations are realistic. At the end of the day, kids are still kids. You cant expect them to always want to donate their toys or to be able to sit still and pay attention through every single event or presentation. (Be honest with yourselfsometimes your own attention wanders, too!) Be conscious of your childrens ages and capabilities, and (without being too quick to exclude them from an activity or event that might not be fun from start to finish) keep in mind that your budding philanthropists are still kids.
  • In other words, dont let yourself become frustrated or discouraged if your children dont immediately embrace the idea of volunteering on a Saturday afternoonpersevere even if they continue to voice their preference for staying at home for weeks to come, Patkin advises. Any good behavior or habit takes time to cultivate, so be very aware of how you address situations when your kids act less than perfect. You want them to relate their experience as a positive one, not one in which they let you down or were punished.

Ultimately, raising children who understand the value of giving back and whose lives reflect that knowledge is one of the most philanthropically minded things parents can do, and this holiday provides the perfect opportunity, Patkin concludes. Dont forget that Thanksgiving isnt just about thankingits about giving as well. After all, the original celebrants gave their food and friendship to one another, and helping others is an American legacy Id like to see continue. And from a parental point of view, youll be amazed at how rewarding it is to raise philanthropists, and how much stronger giving back makes your relationship with your kids.

About the Author: Todd Patkin grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy.

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