With Christmas just around the corner, I thought now would be a great opportunity to talk about charity. However, I’m not going to talk about how important charity is for those in need (which is very important). I’m instead going to focus on the positive impacts that giving to charity can have on your kids.
You may have heard of people who get their kids to split their money into different pots which include Spend, Save and Give ('the three jars system'). Where, as you’ll have guessed, the ‘give’ is for a charity. I like this system as it brings charity to the forefront. However, I don’t use this system explicitly with my kids.
Before I go into why I don’t use that system, let’s go through three positive impacts on your kids if they learn to give their time or money to charity.
3 reasons why you should teach kids about charity:
1. Offering an alternative Money Mindset
Lots of people make money mistakes as they focus on becoming ‘Rich’ and ‘Keeping up the Jones’’, i.e. focus on having money to spend. This mindset controls their behaviours and it’s these behaviours that marketing companies get paid a lot of money to manipulate so we all spend more.
With a different money mindset, you and your kids will be less open to caring about what others are spending their money on and importantly, less open to manipulation from marketing companies.
By talking about charity, we open up the conversation about how money has different uses, other than just spending. As a result, you are helping them see money in a different light and can change their money mindset for the better.
For example, if you do give money to charity, you are going to care less about what others are spending their money on as you feel good about the choices you are making with your money. So, whilst you could have what others have in the future, you have instead focused on helping others.
"Essentially, by giving to charity, your money mindset changes which leads to you spending less and actually becoming wealthier!"
It’s important to note that I’m not saying you should look down on others that do spend, it’s their choice and they may help others in other ways you don’t know about! The key is that your kids start to understand that there are other choices when it comes to money. Without different perspectives on these choices, it’s easy for them to simply compare who has what and declare whether they are doing well or not financially (not a good place to be in).
2. Gratitude leads to Happiness
We know that buying material things can provide short term pleasure. We also know that in most cases we lose interest in what we have bought shortly afterwards.
By talking about charity we are introducing a concept that can scientifically improve your kid's happiness (as well as those of the charity they are helping).
There is lots of research that shows that those who are grateful for what they have tend to be happier. Rather than chasing after happiness, we need to teach our kids to be happy with what you have. One of my favourite TED talks is on this very subject and I’d strongly recommend you watch it (it’s also very funny).
The research shows that most people, no matter what they have, are always unhappy as they just focus on what's next. For example, they say “I’ll be happy once I get that promotion or that pay rise”. Then once they achieve that goal, they set a new, harder goal and their happiness will depend on achieving that.
We need to focus on what we have now as that will bring us happiness. It will also help us achieve our goals as happier people are more productive. This is where charity can really help. It helps us realize what we have and should be grateful for.
By helping others who are in need, we quickly realize that we are lucky to have what we have. This is an instant hit of gratitude.
For us, whilst staying in Vietnam, a relatively low cost destination for us, we were asked if my wife, kids and I could volunteer to help teach English to kids from a local village. We were happy to help out. It was then we realized that despite the village being so close, these kids had never been to our town, nor met a foreigner before. For them travel was too expensive. That hit home as whilst we thought it was cheap to live, to them it was still expensive. We talked to our kids about this and they were so happy that those kids were newly getting to learn English which will help them get opportunities in the future to be able to see new places like we are fortunate enough to be able to.
One important note on this - the intention is to make this a positive experience for your kids. It’s about showing them that there are others out there that need help and your kids can make a positive impact through charity (giving time or money). It is not to focus too much of other people’s suffering or to make your kids feel bad for having the things that they have, e.g. “Don’t be ungrateful .... think of all those kids without …. !”
3. Giving to charity produces chemicals that make us happy
I’ve mentioned this is my other blog (3 alternative Christmas gifts for kids) but I thought it was worth repeating. By giving to others, your body releases a hormone called Oxytocin. This hormone has a lot of health benefits. It’s known as the ‘cuddle chemical’. This hormone is released when we give to others. The more Oxytocin we release the more we trust people, suffer less anxiety and, this acts as an antidepressant. All these elements help us to be happier.
“Does money make you happy?”. Clearly not having money to cover your basic needs can make you unhappy. However, simply having lots of money isn’t the key to happiness. It’s what you do with your money that determines your happiness. This is a key lesson for our kids to learn.
If we use some of our money to help others, we are likely to get that warm, fuzzy feeling inside and that is a sign of happiness.
By helping our kids give some of their time or money to charity they will experience this feeling and are likely to want to keep giving in the future.
Activity - teaching your kids about charity
One of the best ways to teach your kids about charity, and the value of money, is to give them some money (say £5 or $5) and then get them to buy as much food as possible to give to a food bank.
Give it a try!
Why I don’t use the ‘give’ pot when talking to my kids about money
As mentioned above, some parents use the ‘three jars system’ to help their kids split the money they use. I don’t want to discourage anyone who is already using the ‘give’ pot already - it’s a great idea and helps focus on this important aspect. Below I set out our approach which is slightly different.
When our kids are given money, they get to choose where this money goes. We have encouraged them to see money like seeds. They need to choose whether they want to spend these seeds or plant them (save). They can choose to plant flowers (which is saving up for a goal) and plant Blue Trees (money for the long-term which we invest).
As part the saving for flowers, we encourage them to sometimes save up for something to share or give to someone else. This allows them to be flexible about how they want to give to charity. Sometimes they give their time and sometimes they give some money. Recently they saved up and gave some money to a cat rescue centre as they love cats.
Essentially, if they split their money into Spend, Flowers, Blue Trees and a separate one for ‘give’ then they might feel they are spreading their money too thin and not making much of an impact. That is why we group ‘give’ with their Flowers (saving for a goal).
If you’d like to set your kids up with a system of saving for a goal and towards the long term then check out our digital piggy bank.
We all know that giving time or money to Charity can help others more in need. The key lesson from this blog is that by encouraging our kids to give to charity you are also helping them in many ways.
You are offering an alternative Money Mindset (not just about spending)
You are showing them that gratitude leads to happiness
You are showing that giving to charity produces chemicals that make us happy
Let’s help the next generation use their money to not only look after themselves but also others.
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