As parents, we want our children to grow up to become productive members of society with good values and hope they make a living doing something they love. We want them to be happy. Parents are discovering (and science is proving) that teaching their children about philanthropy can help lay the groundwork for achieving many of these aspirations.
The Science Behind Giving
We’ve all heard that “giving is receiving,” but new scientific research confirms that this is literally true. In fact, scientists have recently uncovered a physiological basis for what they call the “helper’s high.” By monitoring the brain activity of test subjects asked to think about how they would give away an imaginary sum of money to charity, researchers discovered that thinking philanthropically lights up the same sections of the brain responsible for pleasure through eating good food and sexual activity! (“The Hidden Gifts of Helping” by Stephen Post)
Empathy and Empowerment
Studies show that almost 70% of inter-generational wealth transfers fail by the end of the second generation. There are two primary reasons: poor family communication and inadequate preparation of their children to inherit and manage wealth.
Exposing children early on to philanthropy is an excellent way of developing empathic thinking. Studies show that philanthropic adolescents perform better in school and have higher self-esteem, and are less likely to become pregnant or to abuse drugs or alcohol. Philanthropy can serves as a vehicle for children to learn about time & money management and empowers children to believe that they can make a difference in their communities or the world at large.
In light of everything that’s happened in the past 10 years, the economy, the government, the disasters of our time, it is my realization that the safest, most secure investment, is our children. Our children are the seeds of the future. As much as you’ve heard people say that, or read it somewhere, our children are our way of passing on the values, morals, and ethics necessary to make the community they inherit that much better. It is by teaching them compassion, morals, and philanthropic hearts, that we can assure that the world is a better place than the way we left it. As family, parents, friends, educators, investing in our children is our way of securing our future.
I don’t have a magic solution for how to do it, or a perfect plan. Raising our kids is equal parts evolving and improvisation. With all the hurdles we have jump through to achieve, the cultural definitions we have to live up to in order to be “successful”, where do we find space in our children’s lives to teach them the values they will need when they grow into adulthood? Between tutors, and sports, and music, we seem to be filling the schedules of our children with one more thing to tack onto a resume, one extra bullet point to put on their college applications. But from personal experience, that extra time we take to teach them the values of giving and of volunteering, pay dividends that will continue to reward not only our children, but everyone they interact with now and in the years to come as they take their steps into adulthood.
I’ve raised four beautiful children. Like any parent, I can’t say I knew how to teach them all that they would need at the beginning. We always go in with misconceptions or that we have everything figured out but who really does? I certainly didn’t. Between me and my husband both working full-time to support ourselves as a newly established immigrant family, it was hard to find time to teach them the value of a philanthropic heart. But the trick is to introduce it little by little.
Because it’s more than just teaching them the right lessons, it’s about living those lessons. Within our busy lives, in order to insure that our link to future generations is something we can be proud of, it starts by teaching our children how to give.
Increasingly, parents are discovering (and science is proving) that teaching their children about philanthropy can help to lay the groundwork for achieving many of the aspirations mentioned above. We’ve all heard that “giving is receiving,” but new scientific research confirms that this is literally true. In fact, scientists have recently uncovered a physiological basis for what they call the “helper’s high.”
By monitoring the brain activity of test subjects asked to think about how they would give away an imaginary sum of money to charity, researchers discovered that thinking philanthropically lights up the same sections of the brain responsible for pleasure through eating good food and sexual activity! (See Stephen Post’s new book, The Hidden Gifts of Helping.)
Exposing children early on to philanthropy – whether by donating money or volunteering time is an excellent way of developing empathic thinking.
Studies have shown that adolescents who are philanthropic are less likely to become pregnant or to abuse drugs or alcohol. They also perform better in school and have higher self-esteem. Finally grow up to be happier and healthier – physically and emotionally – than their non-philanthropic counterparts.
Do you know that Seventy percent of intergenerational wealth transfers fail by the end of the second generation (meaning that the wealth is essentially gone), for two primary reasons: poor family communication and inadequate preparation of their children to inherit and manage wealth. Philanthropy can serves as a vehicle for children to learn about time & money management and empowers children to believe that they can make a difference in their communities or the world at large.
The Simple Six-Pack that help Raise a Philanthropic Child
1. Start Early
At the tender age of 4 or 5, craft time can be turned into an opportunity to make cards or presents for friends, family, teachers and neighbors. As they get older, they can help pick out food or toys to donate to local shelters. When young children participate in these kinds of activities as a matter of course, giving to others becomes reflexive – it’s just what people do for each other.
2. Lead by Example
We’ve all heard the saying “practices what you preach” You can talk all you want about being charitable, but it won’t have an impact unless your children see you putting your time and money where your mouth is. For example every time you donate clothing or household goods to a charity rather than just throwing them away, you set an important example for your children to emulate. Before long, they’ll be asking for your help in culling unwanted items from their own closets to donate.
3. Be Intentional and Focus
Yes, life is busy and hectic; it may be easier to simply buy and drop off your toy drive donation in between the children sports & activities, it’s better to find the time in busy schedules to bring your children along. They need to experience what it feels like to do something thoughtful and selfless for someone less fortunate. The short- and long-term rewards of giving with your children will far outweigh the hassle!
4. Utilize your community/networking
There are plenty of resources available to support your efforts to develop philanthropic values. Use allowance as a tool by requiring a certain portion to be set aside for sharing with others. Highly encourage older kids to get involved with community service opportunities, locally or abroad. Many youth when given the chance to see the contrast between what they have as abundant with poverty on some of the under developed country or just inner city area, they will be so grateful for their simple contributions seemed to make such a difference in the lives of others in need. It’s often a life transformative experience for them.
5. Be Consistent
Children typically love ritual and tradition. Whatever philanthropic practices you decide to adopt, make them regular practices – e.g., “adopting” a family gift giving each Christmas through a social service agency, help prepared meals at the homeless shelter. Do involve the children in the selection as a family together. Once these are in place, it’ll be on auto pilot that is expected.
6. Emphasize the Joy in Giving
Remember Make it Simple, Keep it Fun! Let your children see the joy it brings to be of service to others. Help them find a cause or an organization they can get excited about supporting. Teaching your children the joy of giving is handing them the key to a healthier, happier life.
As parents we worry; it’s in our job description. We worry about whether or not our kids will get good grades, get accepted into that top-tier college, and pick themselves up after they’ve fallen. On some level, in our eyes, our kids are still little 4-year-old children still learning to walk and that is something that will never leave us.
But life is so much more than those little worries. Watching my children give back to the community even now is a joy that has no price tag, has no expiration date, and will continue to make me proud every day I see them. It could be something as simple as my son coming home to tell me he bought a homeless man lunch, or being able to freely call up my daughter because I need help on a fundraising project, teaching our children how to give is the greatest investment you can make.
Vivan Chan’s Profile ~
Vivian Chan and her husband Stephen have four children, two boys and two girls age range from 18 to 31 years old.
Vivian has been very active in the San Marino school community, served as the president of the San Marino PTA Council for two terms, VP for the First District PTA,trustee to the San Mario School Foundation, chairperson for the San Marino City Recreation Commission for 3 terms, Director of Chinese Club of San Marino and chair for the 2008 Mid Autumn Festival, and board member to many youth related organizations such as the girl and boy scouts, 9-1-1 For Kids emergency preparedness program, Kathy Ireland’s Christmas Gala for Children, For the Love of Children Benefit Concert featuring the Backstreet Boys, VP of National Charity League, VP of Education (7 terms) of the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra which oversee the music programs that served 4,500 students in the Pasadena Unified School District, team mom for soccer and little league for years.
An energetic and involved member of the community, who along with her many hours in volunteer work, currently acts as chairperson for the fund development for Athletes & Entertainers for Kids that served the under-privilege children in the greater LA area, Founding board member and VP of the United Charity Foundation, the First District PTA Chairperson for Asian Outreach in the San Gabriel Valley Area, First VP of San Marino PTA Council, A Rotarian of San Marino Rotary Club, member of the Hong Kong Schools Alumni Federation (a passed director), Chinese Art Council for the Pacific Asia Museumand co-chair the Verdant Mist Committee for The Chinese Garden at The Huntington Library. In her spare time, Vivian enjoys writing the column “Whiz Kids of the Week” for San Marino Patch, traveling with her family and gourmet dining with friends.
Disclaimer: La JaJa Kids forms an advisory board that consists of physicians, medical specialists, academics and teachers, to share professional advice on voluntary basis. Information provided above is for reference only, our publication and member of the advisory board will not be liable for the content in any legal manners.