As parents we all want to teach our children to share. Sharing is the act of lending an item that you expect to receive back. Sharing can be when you split your sandwich in half at lunchtime. Sharing can be as simple as sharing a smile or kind thought. As an adult, sharing gets reframed into the act of borrowing or lending an item. For adults, we get the notion that we may never see that item ever again in its original state. I think children get this too. That is why sharing a treasured item is difficult for children and adults. Regardless, the act of sharing is valuable and difficult to expect and teach.
Another concept that seems easier to teach and model for children is giving. Giving is different than sharing in the notion we do not expect to receive anything back in return. A bonus isthe feeling we get from giving. We can give our time, talents and resources and everyone has each of these three in some capacity.
The benefits of modeling and teaching children to give are a child starts thinking outside of their own desires. Another benefit is that self-worth increases when a child realizes they are valuable and have something to give. Whether it is a talent, time or a treasured toy they no longer need or want, everyone has something to give.
Planning as a family for a project, mission or cause gives opportunity for each member of the family to express ideas about helping others. Family meetings around these topics foster communication skills, team building and a sense of belonging. In Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families” he states “Every family must take time to renew itself in the four areas of life: physical, social, mental and spiritual.” Supporting a cause accomplishes this renewal.
Whether you are hosting a mission yard sale or baking a cake for a neighbor who has recently experienced a loss, it all matters. Ideas include birthday parties where requests are for dog food for the local animal shelter or book bags for children at the homeless shelter instead of a gift for the birthday child. Children can participate in community gardens, and in assisted living facilities. Even a valentine card drive for the local hospital is welcome. Be creative! It is important to let your child know how you feel about their willingness to forego their own wantsand to acknowledge that giving just like sharing is not always easy and congratulate them for making a difficult choice. When a family takes time to support a cause together, the sense of family and community increases and often conflict reduces in a family. Positive thoughts and efforts bring siblings closer and the parent’s relationship is strengthened as well. The act of becoming contributors in society changes the focus of a family to realizing they can have a positive impact. Find a way to create giving in your family now!