As a socially aware parent, you want your children to understand the importance of giving back.

How do you make that happen in a world seemingly dominated by material pursuits and the search for immediate gratification?

“There can be challenges to getting the next generation involved and excited,” notes “Busy schedules and geographic distances aside, there are also generational differences expressed in disparate styles of communication, life perspectives and interests.”

Good news, though: Research indicates your teenagers may be up to the challenge. In a recent report by the Case Foundation, 84 percent of millennials made a charitable donation in 2014, while more than a third volunteered for 11 hours or more.

The younger post-millennials? Guiding them down a similar path may be up to you.

Here are some guidelines for engaging your kids in philanthropy:

  • Start as young as possible, taking special advantage of the window around ages 3 or 4 when children first develop a sense of empathy. Even toddlers can help donate their unused toys and clothes to Goodwill.
  • Read children books about giving.
  • Model philanthropic behavior, since children learn best by imitation. Explain your own choices for giving and how they relate to the family.  
  • Instead of making money talk taboo, teach financial literacy so children understand the value of money and appreciate what they have. Consider dividing weekly allowances between spending, saving and giving, perhaps even matching their donations.
  • Openly discuss the poverty and need you see in the community or in the media.  
  • Point out the philanthropy undertaken by celebrities or other role models.
  • Incorporate the child’s own interests into the family donations, sometimes letting them choose recipients.
  • Discuss how giving literally feels good. A recent study outlined in the Wall Street Journal concluded the brain’s pleasure center is stimulated when donating to a worthy cause.
  • Encourage teens to pursue giving opportunities that align with their own beliefs.

Finally, take heart in the relative optimism of the next generation. A 2014 Pew Research Center survey found 49 percent of millennials think the country’s best years are ahead, compared with 44 percent of baby boomers.


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