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Tips on Teaching Your Grandkids To Help Others


by Jack Jonathan

Besides spending, saving and investing money, your grandchildren can also donate it to their favorite causes. Many times, this is the most rewarding option. Kids love to feel like they are helping. Giving is exciting and energizing to children.

Exploring Your Grandchildren's Giving Style
Your children may already be giving in many ways. To help them explore and expand their giving options, notice what inspires their sharing and generosity.
See what sorts of situations and problems at their school, in the community or in the world interest or concern them.

Here are some questions your children can answer to learn more about themselves as givers:

• Why do I want to give?
• What do I like about giving?
• What kinds of causes do I feel strongly about?
• What kinds of charities do I want to know more about?
• What kinds of issues do I think need my support and help?
• Do I know anyone who's involved in those charities or issues?
• Can I give time, money or material goods?

Talk through these questions with your grandchildren to help them find a direction and manner in which they can give. Some grandparents find asking themselves these questions can heighten their own charitable passions. Don't be discouraged if your grandchild says, "But I only have $10! I don't want to give any of it away. I need it all!" Like sharing, giving may not be something your grandchild naturally wants to do. However, the more you discuss and explore giving opportunities, the greater the chance your grandchildren will become interested in charities and issues that spark their generosity.

To instill the habit, some parents require that 10% of their children's allowance be set aside for charitable giving. Other parents invite their children to decide what and how they will give.

Many people think that giving to charity requires writing a check. But it is not necessarily just about money. Giving can be just as valuable when you share goods, services and your time. For instance, some children choose to donate some of their own toys to other children in need. This type of donation can be just as meaningful to the recipient as a check, and just as valuable a lesson in giving for your children.

One Passion Inspires Another: I had spent some time talking about charitable giving and volunteering with my twelve-year-old son, David, but I wasn't sure the conversation had really gone anywhere. He didn't seem too interested in any of the possibilities I brought up, so I dropped the idea. I continued my own giving, which at that point was just writing checks every month. Then David saw a program on TV about illiteracy and suddenly he wanted to do something. I was impressed that David, who was fairly self-absorbed, was interested in something outside his own world. I found a family-oriented volunteer program we could both be part of. Even though David wasn't usually that keen on being seen in public with me, he was eager to learn the skills so he could help other kids learn to read. Initially, I was motivated simply by David's enthusiasm, but soon, I got swept into the program. My own passion for giving got rekindled and David's work teaching others to read made him aware of his own blessings. The experience was rich for both of us and it deepened our relationship as well. — DeAnne, mother of two

Finding Causes Your Grandchildren Like
Whether they're donating time or money, it's important that your grandchildren find causes that are meaningful to them. The more strongly they feel about something, the more likely they may be to give of their time and money. Your grandkids may already have a cause or charity in mind. If not, have them make a list of things that interest them. Your grandchildren may be drawn to:

• Preserving the environment and wildlife.
• Helping homeless animals and pets.
• Improving other children's reading skills.
• Sending less-advantaged kids to camp.
• Feeding the hungry.
• Helping behind the scenes with a theater or musical group.
• Working at an art fair.
• Walking for a health cause.
• Helping other children in need, at home or abroad.
• Supporting activities and organizations they enjoy, such as scouting, sports, music or the arts.

Once you and your grandchildren have made a list of causes, you can find organizations and associations that support them through the Yellow Pages, the Internet, news reports, stories in the media or by asking friends and family members.

Researching Charities
After you've pinpointed charitable organizations that your grandchildren want to support, show them how to find out more about the organization before donating their time or money. The results of their research will help assure them that their donations are going to the best possible places. To find out more, contact the organization and ask for their informational brochures or annual reports. If possible, talk to the executive director or development person at the organization, review their Web site, talk to other volunteers and donors or check with the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau's Web site ( or is a wonderful resource for tips on donating, as well as specific information on many charities.

With your research materials in hand, look for the following information:

Visiting Organizations: If the organization your grandchild is interested in is near you, visiting can be an ideal way to determine its suitability. Before you visit, call to set an appointment or to find a convenient time. Make sure your grandchildren are prepared with questions that will give them the information they'd like to learn. Hopefully, your visit will give you firsthand experience about the people and causes it serves, its needs, staff and volunteers. Often, such a visit offers a powerful emotional experience that an annual report or promotional brochure cannot.

Call to Caring: My daughter and I went to visit a local organization that provides childcare for disadvantaged children. At age eleven, my daughter loves little kids and had read about this organization in the newspaper. We met the director, the woman who actually started the organization. She described the background of many of the children and told us how much they had been through, even though they were under five years old. My daughter was shocked and sympathetic. Then we visited the children. My daughter got to play with the two-year-olds and they seemed delighted with the extra attention. My daughter left impressed with the organization and its staff and feeling like she'd made a difference. She began volunteering one day a week after school and also began donating small amounts of money. This volunteer connection has helped my daughtergrow into a kinder, more compassionate person. — Patsy, mother of one

Opening Up By Going In: Our family participated in a special visitation program sponsored by the Salvation Army. Our visits took us to different neighborhoods and introduced us to fascinating people. Our children learned other sides of life from meeting these people, and they learned how rewarding it was to give their time. As an extra bonus, my wife and I learned about the Salvation Army and were very impressed. We both began volunteering for them and had many wonderful hours helping. — Jill and Lee, parents of four

Discovering Volunteer Opportunities
If your grandchildren decide that volunteering their time is the best way for them to give of themselves, there are steps you can take to make their experience a rewarding one. Your grandchildren may already volunteer their time through church, school or various other programs. Like other types of work, volunteering can help your grandchildren develop skills such as:

• Working together with others.
• Listening.
• Following directions.
• Developing patience.
• Handling responsibility.
• Becoming more tolerant.
• Developing flexibility.

Before your children pursue volunteer opportunities, ask them the following questions:

• What kinds of help would you like to give? (If they don't know, that's fine. That's part of the discovery process).
• What kinds of people do you want to work with?
• What kinds of projects interest you?
• What are your time and transportation issues? What are the limitations on the number of hours you can spend volunteering?
• Do you want or need to work with family or friends? (Depending on the age and needs of your children, a parent or adult chaperone may need to accompany them during their volunteer activities. You may need to commit along with your children).
• Could this volunteer job be a springboard to a paying career in the future?
After discussing these issues, if you and your children are still in need of some volunteering ideas, consider exploring some of the following:
• Visiting seniors in retirement communities.
• Picking up trash in public parks and along highways. (There are even "adopt-a-highway" programs available in some areas across the country).
• Petting and walking abandoned pets at animal shelters.
• Helping during a charity's fundraising events.
• Reading books or playing games with children in hospital wards.
• Serving meals at homeless shelters.
• Organizing a food or clothing drive at their school.
• Beginning a letter writing campaign with the military overseas.
• Helping maintain a community garden.
There are numerous ways your children can express their desire to give. Finding the way that will be most meaningful to your children may require discussion, research and also follow-up. Once they've spent time with their charity, make sure your children are getting the most out of their volunteer time. Ask them the following questions:
• Do you like the work the organization is doing?
• Do you feel welcomed and part of a group?
• Do you have something to do?
• Do you feel useful?
• Is there a different kind of work you'd rather be doing?
• Is your volunteer work keeping you from doing your schoolwork and extracurricular activities?

Earning Volunteer Time: My teenage son, James, told me he wanted to go with a school group to Central America to work with Habitat for Humanity. "And it won't even cost that much to get there!" he enthused. But the cost of getting there turned out to be more than I could afford. So I challenged James to earn his own transportation money and, to my surprise, he did. It was the first time he had earned money for something that wasn't just for him. The week he spent working with Habitat and helping others made a powerful impact on him. He learned new skills, made great friends and learned about working as a team. He also learned how lucky he is. The experience was life changing and opened my son up to giving and sharing in a dramatic way. Since then he has regularly given to charities and has volunteered at camps for disadvantaged children. — Dan, father of three

Whether donating their time or money, make sure your children do not overextend themselves by giving too much. Help them find the amount of giving that is right for them and you.

Using Family Funds for Giving
For families who have the money and desire, setting up a family fund or foundation can be a great way to teach your children about responsibility, setting priorities and charitable giving. The amount of money in the fund isn't as important as giving your children the experience of discovering how and where those funds can be distributed. For example, one grandmother set up a fund and had her five grandchildren work as a team to figure out how to distribute the income each year. Another family of four gave each family member the opportunity to direct one fourth of the family's giving for each year. Each person had to research the organizations to which they wanted to donate and explain to the others why their gift was important and worthwhile.

Talking About Money Through Giving: When my children were in elementary school, I set up a family fund as a way of demonstrating my value system and opening up money conversations with my children. We started talking about money through giving. My goal was to make yearly contributions to causes the children liked. The fund was also a reminder for all of us that money can go for things outside everyday wants and needs. The fund inspired conversations about financial statements, which the foundation sent out annually. The fund continues bringing up new financial topics. In a year when the stock market was not kind, the conversation turned to: Do we dip into principal and keep our same level of giving? Or do we cut back our contributions and maintain our principal? I view this fund as a way to "groom my successors." Why wait until my children are in their 30s to talk about giving? I hope my actions and our conversations will help them discover their own ways to share resources. — Rusty, father of two

Giving to Family and Friends
Giving doesn't always have to be to charitable organizations and causes. Sometimes your children may want to give to people they know who are in need. The following are some families' experiences in giving to family and friends:

• One parent advised her children, "Give to the people who inspired and helped you this month or this year."
• Another parent gives part of her charitable donations to people who are going through especially hard times. After seeing her do this for years, her eleven-year-old daughter decided to give a special gift to a girl in her class whose parents were getting a divorce. "Sally seems too quiet and depressed. She hardly ever talks to anyone anymore," her daughter, Anna, explained. Anna did extra chores to earn money to buy Sally a lovely diary. That gift transformed Sally. She started coming over to the house and she and Anna became close friends.
• One father sets an example by surprising hard working people at traditionally low-paying jobs with a little extra money. He'll give an extra $5 to a great waitress or $10 to a nurse's aide.
• Some families have a container where everyone drops their extra change. At the end of a couple months, the family decides together to whom they give the money.
In giving to someone close to them, your children may have the chance to see firsthand the joy their giving can bring to others. This joy, in turn, can prove to your children how rewarding the act of giving can be.

Feeling Thankful
Charitable giving and volunteering can be an ideal opportunity to discuss with your children the things in their own life that cause them to be thankful. Whether it is their own health, financial security, a clean environment or a stable home, your children may appreciate their own good fortune more while helping others. Use this opportunity to continue to talk with them about their charitable experiences, what they've seen and heard and how it all makes them feel. Consider comparing and contrasting the situations of those they helped with their own lives. Compliment them for sharing their time and good fortune with others.

Excerpted from Yes, You Can! Raise Financially Aware Kids Jack Jonathan. Copyright © 2002 Stowers Innovations, Inc. Excerpted by arrangement with Stowers Innovations, Inc. All rights reserved. $19.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800.234.3445 or click here.

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