Teaching children through giving

April 2, 2010 7:54:14 AM PDT
Since he was about 4-years-old, my son Nicholas would accompany me on some of the volunteering projects I would perform in our community and beyond.

Whether it was emceeing a program or stocking a food pantry, I thought it was important to expose him to the joy of giving back and helping others. It was also good family time.

With the holidays getting closer, this is the time when I try to have conversations with Nicholas about what we can do to lend a hand to those less fortunate. Last Christmas it was his idea to have a toy drive. In fact, he even took inventory of his own toys - willing to donate to a children's hospital those various toys and games he stopped playing with or had out-grown.

Experts say when we encourage kids to volunteer their time and energy, we're helping them develop feelings of self-worth... a critical component of their moral development. So, when I recently talked with my son about volunteering or helping others, there's certain things I try to focus on that will not only inspire him, but also help him understand the various ways of giving back beyond toy giving.

I always try to share some of my fondest memories of giving. The emotional recollections can set the tone for discussing how to do more for others.

No doubt about it, it feels good to give - and even better doing it as a family. A recent study revealed that people feel the best about themselves and about life when they are giving to others. And it's never too early to involve your children. I've seen entire families help to paint schools, erect community playgrounds and even run clothing drives at a neighborhood church. It can be an uplifting testament to the family spirit. And for Nicholas, it makes him feel good about himself.