As of 2016, the U.S. government stated that the average household consists of 2.53 people. In our family, we have eight, so I guess we are not quite what you would call “average”.
When you have a large family, the holiday season presents great opportunities and also some unique challenges. I’ll be honest it can all get a little overwhelming. Getting a family photo taken, sending out cards to friends and family, getting out all of the decorations, attending parties and making lists of who wants what and then buying all the stuff. Not to mention, paying for it. Just thinking about it almost wears me out.
Over the years we have tried to focus on giving more than receiving but it seems pretty hard to stay out of the trap of “spoiling” the kids. I even remember one holiday season where I literally panicked last minute and made a late night run to the store just to get some more “stuff” to wrap. I was rushing down the aisles and throwing stuff in the cart with scarcely a second thought. In retrospect, it was all pretty embarrassing and exhausting.
Then it hit me … maybe the gift I should be providing isn’t the latest in technology or fashion, but rather, the understanding of what the season is really about – giving. According to recent reports on philanthropy, the average person makes 24% of their annual donations between Thanksgiving and Christmas, demonstrating there are those out there doing what they can this time of year. However, what about our kids, do we provide them opportunities to be just as giving?
I really believe that our children are the answer to the prayers of every organization that depend on precious donations year after year. But if our kids don’t know why they should give or how to give, can we expect them to do so or be good at it? It’s really like most other things in life … the earlier you learn and practice, the better you are at it. It’s just that simple!
So, as parents, how do we do it … make our kids understand and develop into good givers? Here are a few suggestions to consider:
1. Think outside the box – Do something that your family has never done before during the holiday season. Maybe it’s volunteering at the local soup kitchen, or donating gently used clothing to a shelter. Maybe it’s time to grab a bunch of snow shovels and go clear some walkways around the neighborhood. It doesn't have to be something really big. In fact, it might be more meaningful if it doesn't come with a lot of fanfare. The point is to start thinking a little differently and expand your circle of influence.
2. Work for It – Instead of Mom or Dad reaching into their wallets to make a donation somewhere, let the kids pitch in with hard earned cash. Create a plan that calls for a portion of a weekly allowance to go toward a charity that is important to the kids or to the family. By starting this done early it will set a routine and as your child grows, he/she will likely discover that giving a small portion of a paycheck is never missed.
3. Practice What You Preach – Once you have passed along your words of wisdom and created a plan for your children to give, you need to drive home the message by doing it yourself. Let them see you dropping coins into the bucket of every person ringing a bell, dropping off food donations at a soup kitchen or putting money into the offering plate at church. Your children seeing how you budget your paychecks to give to the less fortunate shows them how to budget their allowance.
4. Money’s good, but don’t forget about time – Challenge your kids not only to give money, but also give their time. Nothing gets a child fully invested in a cause better than spending time around the people or things that benefit from the help they provide. Hand out food at a shelter, wrap gifts for kids in a foreign country or help a senior citizen put up holiday lights.
Let me package all of these suggestions up in a nice little box for you this holiday season: According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, American’s give about 4% of their yearly income to charities. If we want to get that number to be higher, we need to get our kids vested in the game much earlier. Pick an organization, individual or family and give money or time to help make a difference. Teach your kids to be better life-long givers because it’s like we’ve all been told – giving is better than receiving.
At BusyKid, we’ve always felt that sharing is a vital part of the personal finance formula kids should be learning early in life. Don’t wait until the next hurricane, earthquake, flood or designated charitable month, designate a portion of our earnings now to share with those who could use the help or organizations working hard to help others.