The holidays bring giving and receiving to mind. If your children are old enough to understand Thanksgiving and Christmas, they’ve also probably noticed some people don’t have much or are living in poverty. Yet how do you talk to kids about this huge worldwide problem? There are ways to do it appropriately and successfully and to help your kids learn to be more generous people.
Keep Age in Mind
Experts recommend starting the poverty conversation when children are 5 to 8 years old. During this time, kids are transitioning from self-centered thinking to recognizing others’ needs. They’ve also been in school for a few years and may have encountered kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Teachers may have already discussed poverty in the classroom.
Ask questions to determine how much your child knows, and listen to his questions. He might ask, “Why doesn’t that person have a home?” or “Why is that person hungry?” You can start with simple explanation such as, “Some people don’t have much money, or have a hard time getting jobs. They struggle with homelessness and hunger, but people like you and I can and should help.”
Be Cognizant of Your Message
If you ignore panhandlers or walk past homeless people in your neighborhood, kids may fear bringing up poverty or assume you don’t care. Teach your children that you recognize these people need help, but it’s okay to be cautious. You might make a rule that kids shouldn’t approach a homeless person without an adult. Let your children see you giving money, food, or supplies to people in need.
Choose reputable charities that encourage children’s participation in giving, such as Samaritan’s Purse. Volunteer at soup kitchens or Salvation Army centers. Let kids get to know the people as human beings, not just poverty statistics.