The holiday season reminds us all of the joy of giving and thinking of others. For families, it brings a wealth of opportunities to reinforce important values – such as kindness, philanthropy and service – and to take positive action that benefits you and your community.
Doing good as a family has an impact far beyond any specific project or cause you may support, even if you devote just a couple of hours a month. Service projects and charitable giving teach children how their actions and resources can make a difference in the world. There are opportunities to learn various skills, work as a team, and gain exposure to new experiences and people. In addition, focusing on others’ needs puts individual challenges into perspective and helps children build self-esteem as they realize they have something valuable to contribute.
Here are some things you can start this holiday season and continue throughout the year to show your children how to live their values:
- Build a Tradition of Charity
Find a charitable activity that you can do as a family, and make it part of your holiday tradition. Choose something that suits your family’s interests, age ranges and schedule, such as helping to serve a community dinner, volunteering at a park clean-up , delivering meals or providing help to elderly neighbors, or raising funds for a favorite cause. You can find opportunities listed in the local newspaper or by connecting with groups through your library, school or faith community.
- Establish Habits Early
Explain to children about helping others through charitable contributions even as they begin to grasp how money works, and be more specific once they receive their own allowance. Consider using the four-bank system to help them understand how to compartmentalize money and manage their funds. This includes a spending bank for money to be used soon, a savings bank for money to be used later, an investing bank for money that will grow on its own and a giving bank for money to help others.
- Make Decisions Together
When you have decided how much your family can contribute to charities, consider involving your children in the process of identifying and deciding which causes to support. When they are at the appropriate ages, discuss causes in the community that might be meaningful to them and how the family might participate. Children involved in scouting, school events or other outside activities may enjoy taking the lead in exploring opportunities for the entire family.
- Model Your Commitment
Children will learn from your example of charitable giving and action, whether you make donations to church or service organizations, lead food and clothing drives or volunteer in the community. Take advantage of the "teaching moments" your activities offer by inviting children to participate with you and share what they have with others. Explain why you are helping others, and share your own insights and experiences to help them develop respect, tolerance and understanding for people of other cultures, lifestyles and income levels.
- Schedule Time for Service
Like anything you want to accomplish, scheduling time for service activities helps to ensure you can fit it into your family’s busy life. You may want to plan a specific day or evening each month for the family to do a charitable activity together. This designated time could be used for simple, home-based projects, such as writing cards for hospitalized children or coloring pictures for elderly shut-ins, or for ongoing opportunities you enjoy over time. Family-friendly options might include helping at a homeless shelter, fostering animals, delivering meals-on-wheels or collecting items for a local food pantry.
- Share Your Legacy
Your legacy encompasses who you are and how you want to be remembered, including the ways you have influenced others as well as your financial success. When you foster habits of kindness and inspire children to take positive action that supports community needs, you equip them to make a difference with their own lives. Planning to leave a financial legacy, such as through permanent life insurance or estate planning, ensures you can continue to make an impact for generations to come.
Living your values and inspiring your children to follow your example will have a positive influence today as well as tomorrow. A financial representative can help you create a financial security plan that reflects your most important values, meets your personal goals and contributes to your vision for the future.