Getting your child to care about charitable causes doesn’t have to be that, well, charitable. In fact, there’s plenty that you will get from it too:
- the warm glow and utter pride of seeing your child be selfless, caring and empathetic
- a child who volunteers is less likely to get take up smoking, drinking or other ‘destructive’ behaviours
- seeing how difficult life can be for others can help your child to appreciate their own good fortune, while putting the difficulties they do face into a broader context. Being denied certain treats or asked to carry out household chores won’t seem so bad.
- fundraising for a charity requires perseverance, creativity and a certain level of business ingenuity. These are skills they’ll use throughout their life.
- it’s an activity and will keep them busy!
But even if you’re convinced, how do you get them to be?
Most children are driven by something they see first hand- a homeless person picking through a rubbish bin, a dog being kicked by its owner or a classmate being absent from school because of cancer. All of these can be upsetting to a child, so if they don’t automatically see what they can do, nudge them towards an appropriate charity; it will allow them to feel less powerless and scared by an otherwise tough experience.
If an event like the above doesn’t lead to a charitable epiphany, you can:
- take them to a local charity that has a suitable visitor experience, animal shelters and donkey sanctuaries are good examples
- read a book together or watch a film that covers some issues charities help with. This could be watching Oliver to discuss criminality and homelessness, reading Matilda to discuss child abuse or- if they’re a little older- then the film Stepmom is a good one for talking about cancer
- suggest that they- and their friends- get involved in a specific and fun event, such as a Santa Fun Run
- set an example- if you volunteer regularly or run a marathon, they’ll want to copy you… in their own individual way. Parachute jumping is always a good one to get them excited and talking to others about it.
And once they’re excited?
Lots of charities will have specific activities and events children can get involved in, but for a truly unique experience, help your child to come up with an idea that fits in with their interests. These don’t have to be that different to the fundraising ideas that you would run yourself. A few ideas:
- a cake bake and sale
- a sponsored bike ride / roller skate / scooter ride /swim or run
- a day in fancy dress, or organising a mufti day at school
- a chore marathon for you and the neighbours
- nearly every parent will back a sponsored silence too!
And some final tips
- Let the charity your child is supporting know exactly what they are doing, why and how. Any charity worthy of the title, will thank and provide whatever support is within their capacity.
- Seek local press support and use social media to drive as much interest as you can in the project.
- Involve friends, family, your child’s school and anyone else you can
- Champion your child all the way
- Let them know just what their funds have achieved and why this makes a difference. For instance, £17 could cheer up a child in hospital this very summer
Hannah works for The Cancer Recovery Foundation... find out more here