Families of any means find themselves talking with children about the importance of giving back, through volunteering or donating around issues of importance. Families with significant wealth face a greater challenge in teaching their children – even in small ways, from a young age – how to manage wealth for a balanced relationship with money that leans away from a sense of entitlement and toward a mindset of responsibility and stewardship.
What these families often find is that guiding and involving their children in philanthropy in age-appropriate ways creates paths toward a greater personal understanding and self-worth based on solid values. These children grow up to appreciate their roles within a broader community and find a sense of purpose and fulfillment that extends across their endeavors.
TPI offers time- and client-tested strategies and tactics for parents to employ to achieve these goals. While we explore them in greater detail within our primer, Raising Children with Philanthropic Values, here are some key tips to get your youngest family members on the path to become, over time, financially and philanthropically savvy.
1. Be Your Child’s First and Best Role Model
No matter your child’s age, know they are watching even when you least suspect it. From the busiest preschooler to the seemingly distracted teen, how you speak about issues, the respect you show for those in need, and the way you communicate and collaborate to create partnerships for change is all being absorbed. You establish the lens through which your child will view the world, even as they get older and other voices – peers, teachers, community leaders, and social media influencers – become louder and more frequent in their lives. Even if your wealth was acquired in their lifetimes and your children are older, how you model, communicate, and cultivate your values as you make decisions on how to create change in the world is noticed and creates a critical data point within their own burgeoning opinions.
2. Explore and Make the Most of Teachable Moments
Children are observant and wiser than they let on. They are aware, in their own ways, about the issues others face. As such, there are age-appropriate ways to “unshelter” children and create moments to talk about issues facing the world today. It can begin as simply as talking with them about nonprofits asking for funding or involvement by your family. If you shy away from children’s questions, they only learn not to seek answers – from you. Let them guide the conversation; ask questions to find out why they need to know, what they are curious about, what they have heard, in a non-judgmental way. If you don’t know an answer, or how to answer in the moment, say so. And then get back to them when you have found an answer you feel is honest and appropriate. They are waiting for you to teach them.
3. Make Philanthropy Fun
Of all the experiences in the world, the opportunity to know you have made a difference and have found, or are exploring your way toward, purpose in life is one of the sweetest. Take a cue from your children’s interests – nature, the arts, food, or science and engineering if they have a passion for building toys. If each of your children has a different passion, you can find ways to combine them into outings and activities, or allow them to explore individually and report back to the family in casual meetings or even parent-child philanthropy clubs you create with friends.
Raising Children with Philanthropic Values offers a number of strategies and activities, and lists appropriate ways to approach philanthropy by age group: 3- to 5-year olds, 6-year olds to puberty, adolescents, and young adults. We also offer additional resources, including story books for young children that you can read with them. Remember: your love and your values are your greatest gifts to your children. They are the most ephemeral, and yet they are the most durable and the core of their resilience as they face the world ahead of them. Teaching them through philanthropy will bring you together in ways you will treasure both short- and long-term.
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