A Mom’s Life : Teach your kids the real lessons of charity

July 2, 2013 in Uncategorized by admin  |  No Comments

Recently an old acquaintance put out a plea on Facebook that his dog needed surgery, and he asked that his friends please donate. His updates, which included post-procedure pics of his now-healthy pooch, got me thinking: What kind of charitable donations is my family making? What example are we setting for our kids by throwing a few dollars at nearly every cause that comes around?

Back to my friend’s dog for a moment. Now, I’m an animal lover. But as the mom of a pediatric cancer survivor, it’s hard to see acquaintances putting up cash for a pet’s extensive medical services. Especially when, due to a lack of funds for treatment, there are children around the globe dying from the type of cancer that sickened my son.

But that’s my story, my tug at your heartstrings.

We, as parents, must sort through a lot of those messages, and teach our children how to do the same.

There are pleas at the movies and on television. Television shows the beautiful bald heads at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Ads feature Sarah McLachlan mournfully crooning among sad puppy and kitty eyes, and other ads pan the devastation caused by tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Along with that, we are tapped at every turn for donations to schools, clubs, churches and more — by our own children and their cadre of friends. Buy a candy bar here, a magazine there, a new tote bag or a coupon book. It adds up.

They’re good causes, benefiting good people. But it’s worth examination on where you want your hard-earned dollars given, and what you’re emphasizing is important to your family.

Conscientiously tracking your donations and talking about it with children is a great plan to get them thinking about charitable giving.

If you’re thinking, “but I can’t afford to donate much,” or if you want a more tangible experience for your family, you can find other ways to help.

You could go through your cupboards and closets and donate old clothes and some canned goods to the local food bank. Give blood and boast to your kids that you’re helping save lives. Talk about mom and dad getting to be real heroes!

Set up a charity jar in your main living space as a visual cue. Everyone in your family can donate their loose change, part of their allowance, or birthday money to a cause your family holds dear.

Encourage your children to look around our very own city, and your own neighborhood. There’s probably a family in need very near you, whether it’s an elderly couple living on a limited budget, a family dealing with illness or job loss, or a service member’s loved ones struggling to keep on top of yard work.

Take the family a dinner, pull weeds or mow, deliver a gift card for a free oil change on their vehicle, or fill a backpack with back-to-school supplies. It’s a great lesson in empathy, and in showing that deeds make a difference. And it’s not just putting cash in an envelope or pushing a donate button for a quick “feel good” moment.

When you’ve decided what works or causes your family will focus on, give yourself permission to just say “No,” to the others without guilt.

I’ll admit, it’s difficult for me to respond “Not today, thank you” to a shy preteen trying to sell chocolate bars or cookies outside the grocery store, or to turn down a niece or nephew soliciting money for their preschool. We’d like our family’s gifts to go to something more substantial than finger paints or a camping trip.

Sincerely, I wish we could help every cause, support children healing, save animals from neglect and abuse, instruct everyone to read, support our ideal political candidates, and assist our church in building its new addition.

We just can’t do it all.

What we can do is teach our children to help our friends, family and neighbors around us, and to contemplate what ways they’d like to change our world as they get older. That’s a gift that’s priceless.

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