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Most people recognize that being charitable feels good ― but few understand that donating to the less fortunate has a profound effect on the way we live our lives. Charitable people tend to be dramatically happier than those who hoard their belongings for themselves; charitable people are usually healthier and able to recover from chronic illness much more effectively than the stingy masses. What’s more, charitable people tend to be more successful in all of their endeavors, as the trust and cooperation they foster with their generosity allows them to win support from employers and the community.

These amazing effects of benevolence are what every parent hopes for his or her child, and it seems obvious that encouraging charitable behavior is an excellent parenting strategy. Fortunately, fostering generosity isn’t difficult, especially if you start teaching your kids compassion at a young age. Here are five easy steps to help your child lead a charitable life.

Use Her Interests as Guidance

There is something your child is passionate about: animals, books, food, etc. You can spark her interest in charity and volunteerism by finding a cause closely related to whatever gets her most excited. Getting her involved in choosing the cause will help her to become more invested and participate more often. You might help your search by preparing a list of kid-friendly organizations, such as:

  • World Wildlife Fund. “Adopt” an endangered animal of your child’s choosing, supporting research and efforts to preserve our most precious wildlife.
  • Kids Against Hunger. Donate money, food, and time to help feed hungry families around the world.
  • Toys for Tots. Give away your old, unwanted toys to kids whose families can’t afford such luxuries.
  • Make a Wish. Bring joy to sick children by donating money, airline miles, and more to make a kid’s wildest dreams come true.
  • Operation Gratitude. Write letters, send goodies, and connect with deployed American troops who are devoting their lives to protecting your freedom.

Teach Him Personal Finance

Those with extra time and resources are better equipped to be charitable, so by teaching your child personal finance, you can help him help others. The U.S. has an astoundingly low financial literacy rate, which means children across the country aren’t learning the proper ways to save and spend. Economics and personal finances are uncommon at grade school; therefore, you should devote some of your parenting effort toward teaching your child the right and wrong ways to use money.

Budgeting is perhaps the most crucial financial lesson for kids to learn. As soon as your kid starts receiving an allowance, you should help him build his first budget. Expenditures will undoubtedly be small, which means you will have sufficient resources to devote to saving (perhaps for his first car or college) and donating to charity.

Think About More Than Money

While cash is certainly something every organization clamors for, money really isn’t the only thing charities need to continue doing good works. Though your little ones might not have enough saved up to make a sizeable monetary contribution, they can still help their community through other types of donations. In fact, plenty of charities prefer alternative gifts, which means kids have even more power to make a difference.

Perhaps the most common donation besides dollars and cents is household items. Almost anything in your house can be donated to a worthy cause. You and your child can explore the cupboards, closets, and storage areas for anything unwanted or unused. Items as small as your kid’s toys and as large as your old family boat can be given away to benefit someone in need.

Additionally, kids can engage in homemade crafts that benefit a number of causes; there are a number of projects suitable for all ages, like making blankets for the homeless or writing thank-you letters to deployed troops. You can find more ideas at GenerationOn.org.

Be Gracious and Grateful

No matter how many charities you find that relate to your kid’s interests, no matter how well you teach your little one about money, and no matter how frequently you convince your child to donate old clothes and toys, you won’t be able to raise a charitable child unless you set a good example. Whenever you are around your child ― and even when you aren’t ― you should practice patience and generosity, demonstrating the right ways to behave. From the start, your child should learn empathy and kindness. Then, as he or she grows, he or she will naturally want to help others by giving his or her money, effort, and belongings.

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