Volunteer opportunities in Gainesville provide a great way to spend time with your family and to teach your children about philanthropy at an early age.
Who are you as a family? What defines you? Which lessons are the big ones you want to pass along to your children? These are questions parents grapple with, regardless of their children’s ages. What about social responsibility? Where does your family stand on generosity to others? When do you begin that conversation with your children?
You should start the conversation about generosity early. When you teach your child at 1 or 2 years old to share and be kind to others, you are planting seeds for philanthropy. You know, of course, that this lesson teaches kindness to others. We want our children to be nice to others, but we also want them to be able to get along with others in the world. Compassion is a marker of success in society. Most people would rather work with someone who is likeable than someone who is incredibly smart and has poor social skills. (We’d like both actually, but if we have to choose between the two, we pick someone who we can get along with.)
How does that translate to family philanthropy? In preschool, when your child outgrows clothes or toys and you give the items away, do they help you pack the donations? Do you go together to a charity to drop them off?
Invariably, there is the unpleasant conversation of, “But, I don’t want to get rid of that toy; it’s my favorite!” I get it! When this comes, I offer two suggestions: 1) Do you really need to get rid of it? If you are getting rid of 10 old toys, is keeping one so bad? Can they pick another toy instead? 2) I suggest the conversation, “You are getting bigger, and there is a little boy or girl who has no toys and would be so happy to have one. Could you share it with someone else?” No one says these will be easy conversations when children are small, but welcome to parenthood. I suggest that when you donate old toys or clothes, always take your child with you.
There are other ways your family can develop philanthropy together. To start off, have a conversation about what programs and causes interest your family. If you are animal lovers, can you volunteer at a local shelter or donate a bag of dog food? When you go to the park, everyone can find three pieces of trash to pick up to throw away before you leave. When you are buying a new toy, can you get another to drop off at the Child Advocacy Center? When children reach elementary age, you could go as a family one evening to make a meal at the local Ronald McDonald House or St. Francis House. Remember, you are planting those seeds.
One of my favorite things about Gainesville is the sense of community. This issue of HOME magazine is filled with organizations that would love your help. Having conversations with your children about who you are as a family and how to take care of people less fortunate is part of what defines them.
Every family is busy. Every family has hardships in some way. If you spend time together as a family when you help others, aren’t you actively engaged with one another? What do you want to teach your children about taking care of the world? There is no wrong answer, only the answer that is meaningful to your family. I encourage you to have this valuable conversation and make family memories of helping others.