Volunteering and other activities that can boost income. Plus, how to raise more charitable children
Updated: January 28, 2018
Volunteering is so money.
Teens who are engaged in civic activities — voting, volunteering and activism — are more likely than their non-engaged peers to earn higher incomes and get more education, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Child Development. The study, which measured the behaviors and outcomes of nearly 9,500 teens, also found that volunteering and voting also were associated with fewer symptoms of depression and lower risk for negative health behaviors including substance use.
While it’s not clear why civic engagement leads to such positive outcomes, there’s not doubt that many parents want to foster behaviors like a love of volunteering and giving to others in their children starting at an early age. Here how experts say to do it:
Model the behavior you want. “First and foremost, it is important for kids to see parents become charitable givers as they set the best examples,” says Len Saunders, author of “I Can Do That,” which teaches children about the gift of giving — which could mean everything from coming with you to volunteer to watching you give money to a cause.
You need to show your children “what you give to and why you selected those specific causes, adds mom Sally Boulter, the senior engagement officer at meaningful investment company ImpactAssets. “Cite examples of the power of philanthropy to improve communities and the society, perhaps their school raised money for a new playground or other facility that they enjoy … Tell them that giving makes you feel good.”
“Children should be exposed to the benefits of giving back at a young age,” says Tyler Butler of 11 Consulting, which works with companies that work to better their communities. “As early as 5 they can start volunteering and truly understand how their time and effort can help another person.” They can also early on watch you hand money to say a homeless person and then listen as you explain why you gave that money, why that person needs it, and why this matters to that person’s life. “Kids tend to follow the examples set for them so as a parent or guardian,” she adds.
Start when they’re toddlers. “From toddler age, get a ‘share’ jar along with a piggy bank and have your child contribute a certain portion of their birthday/holiday gifts, allowance, etc.,” says Chantel Bonneau, a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual. “When your child is old enough to understand and appreciate the significance, discuss with them how they would like to use the money.” She adds: “Celebrate and document how much is saved and given with a chart on the refrigerator.” Boulter says that 10% of a child’s allowance is a solid number to have them earmark for charity.
Take them to volunteer. Charitable giving isn’t just about cash — it’s also about giving your time to others. And it starts with the whole family. “Volunteering should be a part of your normal schedule; curious young minds will notice this and want to follow suit,” says Butler of 11 Consulting. “Enabling elementary age kids to tag along for simple volunteering opportunities like packing food boxes or helping an organization like Boys & Girls Clubs … are a fun way to introduce the volunteering bug.”
Older kids, like those in middle and high school, “have developed the basics regarding empathy and the good feeling that comes with charity,” explains Megan Gorman, a managing partner at Chequers Financial Management in San Francisco and author of the blog The Wealth Intersection — so they need to do more than just tag along. Get them to pick a cause and stick to it, so they can see the cumulative impact of volunteering.
Pick a cause they care about. “It is key to emotionally connect them with the charity,” says Gorman — so you should make sure the child volunteers for a cause they care about.
Use their birthday as a teachable moment. “A great way to introduce a child to charity is to partner it with their birthday,” says Gorman. “Birthdays are fun days for children where giving is already happening. So encourage your child to donate their gently used toys to charity.” Butler says that parents can also encourage kids can also ask for charitable donations as part of the gifts they receive for their birthday.
Ensure they see the results. Kids need to see “the final outcome,” says Saunders. “For example, if a child is raising money or food for the food bank, let them see the people receiving the food.”
This story was originally published in November and has been updated.
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