Last week, I talked about ways to give your children practical experience with money - spending it , saving it and earning it - with an eye toward providing them with a foundation of good financial values that will prepare them to be financially responsible adults. These values aren't entirely about personal gain; I certainly believe that we would do well to instill in our children a sense of generosity and help them learn about our collective responsibility to help others.
Naturally, this idea resonates at this time of year, during the holidays, when many of us take the time to appreciate our good fortune and to give something back. By all means give generously; however, remember that the social and cultural institutions that we support through private charity need resources all year long.
As I wrote in the last column, you are the most influential role model your children will ever have (though you may doubt that fact during their teenage years). Your example sets the tone: If you are charitable with your time and money, the chances are excellent that your children will follow suit. Here are some ideas you might pursue with your own family as part of taking a more active role in instilling the urge to be generous in your children: - Tell your kids what you do for others.
If you do give to charity, let your kids know what you're doing and why. Teach them about the purpose of nonprofits and how they rely on donations and volunteers to fulfill their mission. You might want to teach the habit of giving by encouraging them to earmark some portion of their allowance for a charitable cause. You could even give them an extra dollar a week with the understanding that it will go to the charity of their choice.
- Help them find a cause or a group that reflects their interests or passions. It's most rewarding when you give to a group that speaks to you in some way, so encourage your children to find an organization or cause they can believe in. You might be surprised by their concerns. A few years ago, one of my sons announced he wanted to make a donation to the American Cancer Society. - Pick a family charity.
One approach to introducing the tradition of charity is to let your kids help choose a recipient for the entire family to give to. Hold a family meeting to solicit ideas about how to divvy up your family's philanthropic budget. In addition to teaching your child the importance of being generous, the process of selecting a charity can give your family a greater sense of purpose. Ultimately, it can bring a family closer together.
- Create a charitable gift account.
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