I did not birth a little Jane Goodall or David Suzuki. This was evident years ago when I pointed out an ant carrying a giant crumb to my 3 year old. As we bent down examining the little creature I remember thinking “I am a good Mummy – teaching her to love nature”. That stupid smug thought came to an abrupt halt when she crushed the ant into the sole of her Dora shoe. Splat! Clearly, the lesson I was trying to impart went unnoticed.
I stole the idea of a charitable birthday from my daughter’s friend. A few years ago, so inspired by a talk at school about Unicef, Marin asked her friends to make a small donation instead of gifts. (In case you are wondering…she came up with this all on her own) Impressive, no? So we began talking about birthday parties long before the day. Our girls are showered with gifts from both sides of our large families; they do not need more toys from their school chums. Slowly the girls considered the idea of using their party to help other people.
Gillian decided instead of presents her friends could, if they wanted to, give a small donation to the Ottawa Humane Society. (She loves dogs, cats and little critters – gone are the days of ant stomping!) The wonderful thing was that her friends donated money from their own piggy banks, lots of quarters, loonies and change. Gillian collected $81 and felt fantastic walking into the shelter with her birthday “gifts”.
Sarah needed more encouragement. She wanted MORE presents. After planning her super fun party (and a little nudge) she decided to collect cans for our local food bank. Walking into the food bank with bags full of food had a big impact. She was beaming from ear to ear. Both girls are already talking about the charity they will help at next year’s birthday.
Teaching kids the importance of giving back to the community is more than just talking. My Parents, Uncles and Aunts volunteered in the community all the time. We learned it in school too. Our children see my husband and I help neighbours, fundraise and volunteer. Now that the girls are older, we help as a family. Reading books about different experiences can help children grasp difficult subjects like illness, poverty and overcoming hardships. Despite this idyllic parenting babble, we still remind ourselves and the girls to think about others. I wonder if Jane Goodall or David Suzuki’s parents had to do this too…
How do you teach your children about charity?