As the holidays approach, you’ll soon hear bell ringing around shops, receive mailers from charities, and see countless opportunities to donate your time, money, or possessions. Whether giving is a part of your holiday traditions or not, you probably hope your kids will develop empathetic altruistic, and charitable habits for all times of the year. The good news is that children are naturally inclined to be compassionate. Think of the preschooler who helps a classmate pick up toys, or the toddler who is concerned when someone is hurt. Children are capable of understanding caring and giving at three or four. However, cheerful giving still must be taught. So, how can parents encourage their children to give?

The most powerful tool you have is YOU

Kids will copy what they see their parents doing, so it’s important for you to be mindful of your charitable actions. You can reinforce giving by involving your kids in your donation activities, or by making charitable giving a family activity. When you donate at church, for instance, let your child put the offering in the plate. If you are preparing to donate clothing items, invite your child to help you sort through your wardrobe.

Discuss the “whys” of donating

Simply telling your kids to be charitable because “it’s the right thing to do” is not giving them the whole picture. Donating can be too complicated for children to entirely understand. Make giving more tangible by explaining how donations will make a difference in the life of someone else. For example, when you drop change into a red kettle, share with your child how the money will be used to give people shelter, food, and other important items – things they don’t have now. Studies have found that kids whose parents talk to them about giving are 20 percent more likely to give to charity than kids whose parents do not.

Show your child the hands of God

Our money and time are not our own according to Scripture. We exercise charity because we are called to be the hands of Jesus and follow the example of Christ. Biblical servanthood goes beyond earthly things – our treasures are in heaven. While teaching Biblical truths might not always fully resonate with younger children, with diligence and leading by example, servanthood can be rooted in your child’s character.

Get to the heart of the matter by teaching empathy

When your kids can put themselves in the shoes of another person, they can most easily empathize and will be more inclined to altruism. Encourage your children to think about the thoughts and feelings of others to teach them empathy. Ask them to think of those who live with less, and what that might be like. Then explain how giving can make a difference in their lives. Children often act from a center of self, so describing how their actions affects others is an effective way to encourage generosity.

Take advantage of teachable moments

In moments when you have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ, teach your children values like servanthood, compassion, and generosity. Whether you have the chance to bring a dish to a friend in need, or you’re tithing at church, share the importance of giving joyfully with your child.

Begin showing your child charitable values by giving to St John today.