Teaching the importance of compassion
Source: Kenneth Jones, director of program and staff development The holiday season is a time for giving thanks and giving back. Now is the perfect time of year to teach children the importance of community service and to nurture the spirit of giving. Start by choosing a charity in your own community. Talk to youth about the kinds of charities they would like to support.
If an organization is looking for food donations, give your children the money you want to spend on donations and let them choose the food items at the grocery store. Thoughtful selections give them a chance to think about what some who are less fortunate might need.
For young children, it may mean more to donate time by helping a community service organization like a soup kitchen, for example. They can help by doing small chores like decorating the tables, making sure napkins are laid out and handing out silverware.
Tweens and teens, on the other hand, might find it more meaningful to raise money for a particular cause. They could do some chores around the house and neighborhood to raise money to donate.
Another way to instill the importance of community service is through volunteering, which teaches valuable lessons. Taking part in projects like cleaning up school grounds, clothing drives and toy drives can help give children a sense of community and what it means to take action.
While working at a toy drive, for instance, let children sort the toys according to age group and gender. These and similar tasks teach organizational skills, as well as the ability to care.
If you decide to participate in buying Christmas presents for a less-fortunate child, let your children decide what to buy. These programs usually have a dollar limit, so it is a good challenge for your children to wisely use money.
Whatever “giving-back” path you decide, adults should also be committed to serving others and willing to work alongside youth. This sends the message that adults are not only encouraging, but are proud to support the same charities youth believe in.
No matter the strategy, your focus on reinforcing a child’s compassion for others is a key to helping them become caring adults.
For more information on volunteering and community service projects, contact the Woodford County Cooperative Extension Service.