Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays. By now we’ve settled back into fall routines, the leaves are turning spectacular colours, and it’s still warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities. And of course, there’s the traditional Thanksgiving feast to look forward to. It’s also a time to reflect on how lucky we are to live in a country like Canada, and to remind ourselves to practise an “attitude of gratitude” by showing appreciation for what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t. After all, we’re important role models for our kids.
Kids, even young ones, can get in on the act of giving, and there are so many ways to give. They can allocate a small portion of their allowance (or other earnings like holiday and birthday gifts) for sharing. With Remembrance Day approaching, they can put a toonie in the collection box and buy a poppy pin. Or they can throw some of their change in the tin at your regular coffee shop.
You can also teach your kids about giving using new and innovative tools like the party-planning website Echoage. Billed as an online birthday party service where kids get the gifts they want and give to charity, it lets you personalize your invitations, add your child’s desired presents, and choose a charity. Then, watch as guests RSVP and contribute – a bit like a bridal registry. The funds raised are split, so you receive half to purchase your child’s dream gift(s) and the charity receives the other half; you can then send your thank-you notes straight from the site. Rather than getting lots of gifts your child doesn’t really need, she gets a gift or two she really wants, plus the chance to give to a charity she’s chosen because it’s meaningful to her. Echoage partners with many great charities, so your kids are likely to find one they connect with.
Giving doesn’t always have to involve money: volunteering your time is just as valuable. I know families that volunteer together to provide food and shelter to the homeless. My daughter and I have volunteered with a local organization that makes soup and delivers it to women’s shelters and programs for youth in crisis.
Donating the toys and clothes you no longer use to those less fortunate is another way to get your kids involved in the act of giving. Have them decide which toys they’re ready to give away and which clothes no longer fit, and let them join you when you drop everything off at a charity in your community. This teaches kids that stuff – even their old stuff – has value, and people are grateful to receive it.
As well, encourage your kids to get involved with charities that empower and enable youth to be agents of change. School and youth campaigns give kids exciting opportunities to raise awareness and funds for important issues such as providing clean water and building schools in developing countries.
One final note: if a charitable organization is new to you (or maybe it’s not, but you just want to double-check), look up its status on the CRA website. This is an easy way to confirm that a charity is on the up-and-up. After all, you don’t want your kid’s first foray into charitable giving to be a negative experience.