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*** Monthly Feature Column ***
Building Assets in your Kids
by Kelly Curtis, M.S., author of Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things.
It’s the season of giving and there’s no better time to include your children in kind and caring acts. Food drives and non-profit fundraising abound during the holidays, but there are also virtually limitless ways to give that won’t cost your family a cent.
Search Institute has identified Caring as one of the 40 Developmental Assets. Research shows these are characteristics of healthy, caring, resilient kids. The more assets youth have, the more likely they’ll resist risky behaviors in the future.
No matter which way your family chooses to give this holiday season, there are many ways to offer a caring hand in your community. Most giving can be done in a way that empowers children to take a part.
While some families wince at the idea of committing one more minute of the holiday season, others may find that giving their time is the most heartwarming way to do so.
My husband and son served as bell-ringers for the Salvation Army this year, and I’m certain they’ll do it again. My son thanked a man who put money in his kettle, and the man said, “No, thank you for standing out here in the cold ringing the bell.” We all have a part to play in charity.
Here are a few more ways your family can give the gift of time:
• Help sort toys for the Secret Santa program. The Salvation Army is usually a good place to start.
• Work at the food pantry, clothing station or community Christmas meal.
• Partner with the school or community agency to help sponsor a coat drive, food drive, or hat and mitten tree.
• Commit to click! “Click to donate” sites just require a mouse and some screen time.
• Many organizations help to partner volunteers with those in need,. The Smart Givers Network is one Website that can point young volunteers in the right direction.
Perhaps you have a unique ability that can be put to use this holiday season. Christmas offers plenty of opportunities for showcasing your talents for the good of others.
Consider these avenues for giving your talents:
• Bake goodies to give to the local soup kitchen, military troops, or fundraiser.
• Read stories to children at the homeless shelter, or help kids make gifts for their parents at a holiday bazaar for low-income families.
• Form a choir and sing Christmas carols at the nursing home or hospital.
• Donate artwork or photography to a silent auction benefiting a cause you believe in.
• Help an elderly neighbor to decorate her Christmas tree.
• Wrap gifts at a craft fair to raise money for a charity you care about.
• Consider other talents that don’t relate to the holidays. Tutoring or coaching young athletes may be a way for your family can give back to the community year-round.
Sometimes the easiest way to give is to donate your treasure (if you have some to spare!) There are ways to make meaningful giving a family affair.
Give your stuff.
GoodWill and local second-hand shops always welcome your tax-deductible castaway items, but you may also consider earmarking a few items for someone specific you’ve met at on a missionary trip, or when you visited the homeless shelter. Disaster relief drives and homeless shelters are usually looking for gently-used clothing as well.
Buy a toy.
The benefit of Toys for Tots or Secret Santa is that children get to shop for a child in need. This kind of giving offers a very tangible option that appeals to children. Families can find ways for children to participate in the purchase of the items as well, using chores or allowance.
Stretch your dollar.
As a family, you can decide how much money you’d like to give, and determine how the kids can contribute to that amount. The family can agree on one charity, or split the donation. And look for “matching gift” drives to stretch your donation. These are often offered through employers or during a telethon. Charities like Heifer International focus on sustainability as well, which is a good lesson for kids.
Spread the giving throughout the year.
Perhaps you tithe with your church, or sponsor a child through Compassion International. Whether or not it’s a written contract, your family can choose to make a goal for sharing your financial treasures every month. Consider your county’s animal shelter, wildlife refuge and church missions as well.
No matter how you contribute, your family’s charitable giving will pay dividends down the road, in ways we may not even know. With so many ways to give this holiday season, which will your family choose?
Thanks for joining in to build assets in your kids! I look forward to seeing you again next month for Positively Speaking.
Kelly Curtis is a Wisconsin school counselor and author of Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things. To read more about Kelly, please visit her Weblog, Pass the Torch or follow her on Twitter.
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