When it comes to giving back, adults don’t need to have all the fun — or the feel-good boost that comes with helping someone in need. Kids can get in on the act, too. In fact, there are several reasons why they should. Many experts agree that teaching kids the value of giving back can have a positive impact on their lives.
“Children go through many important developmental milestones, and we can always engage in conversations with them about the importance of kindness, empathy and generosity,” Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in New York, tells In The Know. “These are important values that can help children learn more about themselves and the world we live in.”
In addition to learning about themselves and those around them, here are five more reasons why it’s important to teach kids to give back — not only during the holiday season but any time of year.
1. Giving back builds self-esteem
Along with the joy that can come from helping others, giving back also has the bonus effect of boosting self-esteem. That goes for adults and kids alike.
“Giving back has also been shown to improve our self-image and self-esteem, which is why it’s especially important to involve children in charitable works,” Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, tells In The Know. “Not only will it bolster their social development, but it will teach them an important lesson about their responsibility and duty to furthering causes outside of themselves.”
The ability to give back shows us that we have something to contribute to the world around us, Lurie adds. And that ability also helps those who are struggling in their own lives.
“Many folks who experience anxiety and depression, for example, often struggle with feelings of worthlessness,” she says. “It has been shown that when engaging in charitable works, they are confronted with the fact that they have value, and their symptoms can decrease.”
2. Giving back strengthens connection to community
When kids help others in their own community, they see what’s important to neighbors and others who are virtually in their own backyards. They can connect with people who have the shared experience of driving the same streets, visiting the same shops and maybe even going to the same schools.
“Kids will definitely benefit from getting connected to the community because it will give them a sense of belonging,” Sam Nabil, CEO and lead therapist of Naya Clinics, tells In The Know. “Keeping the children in touch with other families will help them see that not all families are the same and that each family has their own set of ideas, values and routines in life. These connections will also help make the children feel that their neighborhood is a safe and friendly haven. Parents can encourage their children to make community connections by doing things together with other people.”
3. Giving back teaches gratitude
As kids are making their holiday wish lists and focusing on getting the perfect gift, giving back offers them an opportunity to be grateful for the things they already have in their lives. Parents can help kids understand this by explaining that not everyone has the same resources or opportunities to fill those wish lists and that they can help.
“Sometimes, we are so busy getting caught up in all the pageantry and commercialism of the holidays that we forget that a lot of people simply don’t have the luxury of enjoying the holidays,” Nabil says. “This time period can be more stressful to those who are homeless or have limited access to food and other necessities. Giving something to them can somehow help ease their stress and sadness.”
4. Giving back helps kids experience empathy
Helping other people encourages both kids and adults to step outside of themselves and think about the needs of others first.
And while these experiences should be age-appropriate for children, de la Rosa explains that teaching kids these values early on can have a positive impact.
Giving back “helps [kids] practice empathy by learning about what others may need or want and knowing that they can do something to help others feel cared for and loved,” adds de la Rosa, who is also the Hope for Depression Research Foundation media advisor.
5. Giving back can inspire new family traditions
No matter what time of year, giving back can create lasting traditions that strengthen family bonds and give kids an experience they can repeat throughout their lives. They can also learn about causes that are important to their family.
“Children are very curious and may ask a lot of questions about the ways that their family is giving back,” de la Rosa says.
This can be an opportunity for parents to discuss values and why supporting a particular organization or cause is meaningful to them.
While giving back gets a bright spotlight during the holidays, especially as we see our shopping lists grow and grow, the opportunity to help others exists every day of the year.
At the end of the day, “We all want the same thing: to simply feel valued by somebody else,” Dr. Joseph Shrand, chief medical officer at Riverside Community Care in Dedham, Mass., tells In The Know. “Giving back reminds someone of their value.”
And when we remind someone of their value, we are also reminded of our own value, which is a lesson that kids can appreciate every day.
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If you liked this story, check out seven ways you can give back to your community this holiday season!
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