SMARTPHONES, VIDEO GAMES, THE HOTTEST TOYS, CELEBRITY SNEAKERS. You name it, your kids probably want it. And, of course, as a parent, you want to please your kids. But you also recognize the importance of establishing a charitable mindset from an early age.
“The question we often get from families is, ‘How do I raise generous, grounded, responsible kids?,’ ” says Stacy Allred, head of the Merrill Center for Family WealthTM. “Philanthropy can be a core tool to help you address that.”
Roughly six out of 10 young parents say they have talked about charitable giving or volunteerism with their children, according to a November 2017 study by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.1 To start the conversation with your kids, Allred suggests the following tips.
Generosity is a concept you can introduce as early as preschool age by teaching your children to share their toys. “Some families tell their kids, ‘If you get a new toy, choose one of your old toys and give it to someone else,’” notes Stacy Allred, head of the Merrill Center for Family WealthTM.
One approach many families take, Allred says, is to have their children divide their allowances into four equal parts: to save, spend, invest, and share. You can be a role model here. Let’s say you give 10% of your income to charity—urge your children to do the same. Or encourage them to set their own giving goal.
“Talk to your kids about the causes you support and why they’re important to you. Then suggest that they choose a cause they want to support,” suggests Allred. Start by asking them to think about their own interests and hobbies. If they’re animal lovers, you can help them raise money for the local humane society. “We’ve had families that were big sports families, and they got the kids involved in supporting soccer camps for at-risk youth,” Allred says.
Sure, you could go through your children’s closets solo to find clothes or toys to give away, but you’d be missing a valuable opportunity if you did. Instead, make this a teachable moment, suggests Allred. Have your child help you select what they don’t need anymore, then take them along when you drop off the donation. (They’ll get a bonus lesson in sustainability as they learn that their old stuff can be useful to someone else.) If you’re buying gifts for a family in need during the holidays, involve your children in the shopping and wrapping.
If your family contributes money to certain causes throughout the year, you have a few ways to make that a learning experience, too. Let your children research and choose a cause that means something to them. Or collect everyone’s donation money in one jar and decide, as a family, what you’ll do with it. Think about which lesson you want to teach—freedom of choice or being a part of a group decision. “It depends on what skills are important to build in your family,” Allred says.
You want charitable giving to feel like an invitation, not a requirement, notes Allred. Kids should donate because they’re choosing to do so. One effective way to keep encouraging them is by showing them the impact they’re having on someone less fortunate with their giving. “Philanthropy can provide invaluable lessons—and not just in generosity,” Allred adds. “It can help your kids develop financial skills—and character—as well.”
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