Raising a giver: Teaching kids about charity

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File photo (iStock)

The Tuesday following Thanksgiving is known as “Giving Tuesday" -- a day set aside to focus on charity.

And when it comes to the spirit of giving, Dr. Vanessa Jensen, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, believes it’s never too early to start teaching our children about doing good deeds for others.

“I think it’s kind of a nice idea to start kids -- from a young age -- with the idea of, if you have something, you can share,” she said. “It’s a built-in part of who we are, and who you could be, as a giving person.”

Jensen said by nature, children are self-focused. But, by teaching them why we give and how we give, it enables them to think outside of their own needs and wants.

She said it’s beneficial to show children that giving isn’t always about just donating money.

Giving of time, of energy, of love are even more important lessons for kids.

Being a good student and a good, helpful classmate are examples of giving that they can understand.

Jensen said kids learn by watching what their parents do.

Parents who model giving behaviors, as part of their church or community, have an opportunity to show their children giving not only helps people but makes the giver feel good too.

“The best way to teach a child about giving, and how good that feels, is to show it,” said Jensen. “Show them that when you help somebody, the way it feels for you is, ‘Wow, that was really good.’ And instill that sense in kids from as young as you can.”

Jensen said getting kids to move beyond their self-focus and taking steps to help someone else is important for their development.

She recommends looking for something as simple as helping a classmate pick up something they’ve dropped -- as a great place to start.