We teach our children many things while they’re growing up. They learn about hard work, responsibility, and kindness. We take them to church, send them to school and sign them up for summer camp, dance, soccer and so much more. That’s what parents do.
The art of giving is another lesson some families begin teaching when their children are very young because the practice of helping others can be transformative in the life of a child.
Sure, most children learn how to give. Giving is woven into the fabric of our society. We hear about a cause, and we contribute, or we volunteer, but the kind of giving some families teach goes much deeper than that.
Intentional giving is the kind of thing that involves time, thought, energy and passion. It’s the kind of sharing that can bring special satisfaction and the fulfilment that comes from personal involvement and ownership.
Families often tie lessons in giving to the holidays, birthdays, or other special times, and the lessons start with monetary gifts. The amounts can vary. Maybe $50 or as much as $1,000, but this money is not to spend. This money is to give away, and the child is responsible for deciding where it will go.
The purpose of this lesson is to teach children the essence of intentional giving, which involves research. They might visit an organization or two, explore volunteer opportunities, and learn how their gifts will help. Through their experience, children find new passions and voices for advocacy.
These are important life lessons that children can carry into adulthood. Again, giving is part of life. We all have received invitations to galas, and other fund-raising events and we’ve all made contributions. But, when we stop to think about who we want to support and make that special gift, we feel more connected, closer to our community and our passion for giving grows.
But giving isn’t only about money. Time can be even more valuable than money, and there are many ways to volunteer. Families can serve a holiday meal at a homeless shelter, pick up trash at a park, or volunteer with a local charity. Opportunities to help are never far away, and potential benefits are enormous.
Did you know health and wellness are enhanced through giving? According to the Cleveland Clinic, giving can increase self-esteem, bring greater happiness, satisfaction and it can lower stress levels. Giving can also lower blood pressure and improve longevity.
Think about the last time you gave a friend or relative a special present for their birthday or some other occasion. You probably walked away feeling just as happy as the person who received the gift, and research backs that up. Giving can create a “warm feeling” inside of us, which originates from a region in our brains associated with pleasure, trust, and connection with others. No wonder they say giving is contagious.
There’s a whole world of adventure, excitement and wonder competing for our children’s attention, and the art of giving is easily overshadowed. But if they are given an opportunity to unwrap this gift, remove it from its box and try it out, they just might find a treasure they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.