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Teaching kids how to share is one of the first values that many parents convey to their children. The Jewish ethic of giving tzedakah is deeply rooted in this idea; it is about making sure that all of the world’s resources (food, water, clothing, education, shelter) are shared justly. Engaging kids with the idea of tzedakah is an extension of a values discussion most families already have.
Educating kids about tzedakah can also help them understand that what they do matters and that, in small ways, they can make a difference in this world.
Start With Yourself
According to a study by Dr. Noa Heyman, clinical psychologist, modeling charitable giving is the most effective way for parents to communicate philanthropic values to their children. So it’s important for parents to develop a regular practice of giving.
You may want to strive for the Jewish goal of giving 10% of your income annually toward tzedakah. If money is tight and you are cutting back on non-essentials in your budget, you may consider making fewer charitable gifts while maintaining core commitments, or volunteering 10% of your time to a cause you believe in. As you make decisions about how much and where to give, talk explicitly with your children about what you are doing, so they can learn from the example you set.
Make Tzedakah a Part of your Family’s Natural Rhythm
In addition to your personal giving, create regular opportunities to give both time and money, together with your kids. While your children might not have much money of their own to give, even donating your money will get them in the habit of financial giving.
Here are a few ideas:
Daily–Whenever you go to the grocery store, buy a couple extra cans of food. Deliver them to the local food pantry with your kids.
Weekly–Before lighting Shabbat candles, make a point of putting a few dollar bills into a tzedakah box and give children a few bills to put in as well. Let them know that we mark the end of every week by sharing what we earned this week with others. If you give your kids a weekly allowance, suggest that they set aside 10% of it for tzedakah, in keeping with Jewish tradition.
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