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Ways to Teach Your Child About Giving

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Kids can grasp kids helping kids.

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After school, my twin 7-year-olds have any of three things on their minds -- the possibilities of a play date, going out for ice cream, or the Wii. So they weren't too happy one day last week, when I told them we were off to Target (TGT) )to go shopping for a needy family of four we were sponsoring this season.

They wondered why didn't I just do it myself while they were in school. In the past, I did, it was easier. But taking into account their growing maturity and wanting to protect them from one of our area's most prevalent childhood syndromes -- rampant entitlement -- it was time they took some personal involvement.

I soon realized that the process would be a chore and not a learning experience if I called all the shots. I hastily turned the project over to them, handing them the instruction sheet from the sponsoring organization, the Carlsbad Christmas Bureau, and a budget for the toy portion of the commitment.

As with just about any job, once they owned it, they got interested in it. On the drive to Target, they were asking me what non-perishable meant and whether to buy toothpaste or soap as the toiletry item. As I had selected a family with a boy and girl of roughly their ages, picking out the toys became a moment to showcase their expertise in the particular likes of their age group.

More so than ever, opportunities abound this time of year to involve children in philanthropy. The Carlsbad Christmas Bureau Adopt-a-Family project received about 30 more requests, up to about 450 families. This year, chapters of both the Salvation Army and the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots campaign have put out urgent pleas for more toys to offset shortfalls in donations.

Another project we got involved in came through the commitment of neighbors, Ed and Eleanor White, also of Carlsbad, who for the past eight years have turned their garage into a relay center for the charity, Operation Christmas Child, a campaign of the international relief group, Samaritan's Purse. This group has individuals fill shoeboxes with toys, which are then shipped to needy children around the world. White and her family collected a phenomenal 1,500 shoeboxes this year, 200 more than in 2008.

Although on a far more impressive scale, like us, the Whites are concerned that their children learn to incorporate service into their lives.

"Our biggest challenge is making our kids aware of the less fortunate since they haven't experienced it," said Eleanor. "The videos and letters they receive (from the Operation Christmas Child families they help) expose them to the harsh reality of other children's lives.

"The older two boys have been to a soup kitchen to serve and have seen some impoverished families, but my youngest is five and is still a little young to go in person to these locations. These experiences, I hope, will someday give them a deep appreciation for the fortunate life they have."

Laura Goodstein, a mother of three in Carlsbad, California, runs a toy drive to benefit children at the local Ronald McDonald House (MCD) and children's hospital, collecting donations by placing drop-off boxes in classrooms at the area elementary school. "I have gotten feedback from parents thanking me for the opportunity to get involved," she said. "A couple of teachers told me the kids are so excited about this."

Goodstein became involved with Ronald McDonald House when a close friend's family stayed there. Now she brings her children there to volunteer. "I think for kids it's a great place to visit," she said. "It's not scary there so it is a good place to start learning about giving back."

During the holidays, groups like Carlsbad Christmas Bureau and families like the Whites and Goodsteins make it convenient for others to give. Now the goal is to find ways to incorporate giving and learning about the needs of others into our children's lives throughout the year.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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