Column: Teaching Children About the Value of Giving


By David Cohen

We all have hopes and dreams about how our children will grow into adults. These may include health, happiness and lots of different definitions of success. One seed that we can all plant early on is the value of giving. We can teach our children that taking care of others is important. This can start very young.

At the Temple Sholom Selma Maisel Nursery School, tzedakah (the Hebrew for charitable giving or justice) is front and center in the curriculum. Children bring non-perishable food items each week, providing donations to our friends at Neighbor to Neighbor. Parents participate in delivery of the food, collections of other items, and social action initiatives such as Midnight Run. Teachers discuss the ethics of giving to others, using developmentally-appropriate words and examples. While every culture has different terminology and customs, we all care about helping others.

I recall that my grandmother used to give to her favorite charities, but that she always did so anonymously (which I understand why). However, I encourage you to discuss with your children ways to give back. Are you able to donate goods or make a charitable donation? Are you able to volunteer at local programs? You as parents are their primary role models.

With holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Chanukah coming up, there are some great opportunities for giving and for discussing these values. When shopping for your Thanksgiving feast, or for holiday gifts, include your children. Ask for their help in selecting food or toys that could make another child’s holiday more meaningful, and go a step further by delivering the items together.

When we make giving a regular part of our family lives, we are building a generation of caring individuals. We want our vision of success to include empathy, generosity and compassion. For more information about helping others, contact your local non-profits. You can make a real difference!

David Cohen is the Director of Schools at Temple Sholom, overseeing Selma Maisel Nursery School and the Religious School.

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