We all want our children to be generous and kind. We model these behaviors in hopes that we will impart a sense of philanthropy and charity to our little ones. But how do we teach our children about the tough stuff. How do we talk to our children about poverty, sickness and injustice? These are difficult topics even for us and must be introduced to children with great care.
Recently, I traveled to New York city with my family. I was excited to expose my children to the cultural and architectural marvels of the big city. It hadn’t occurred to me that my six year old might receive her first lesson in homelessness. As we strolled the busy streets with our eyes raised up to take in the sights, our little one was instead looking down and was desperately trying to make sense of the fact that there were men and women begging for food and change on the streets. She even used her stellar reading skills to discover that these people were, in fact, homeless.
Now, Little Miss is as sensitive as they come and was so shocked by this revelation that she became immediately devastated that these people had no homes and little food. My husband and I stumbled through an explanation which neither calmed nor satisfied her. She was so disturbed that we spent much of the rest of our trip discussing her discovery.
We decided it was time to teach our daughter about the darker side of life. Sheltering her from these truths was not going to be an option. We needed a plan of action to help her understand the heartbreaking realities that many face. When we sat her down we focused our attention on all the good she good do to help combat homelessness, disease and other social injustice. She was immediately perked up and wanted to get started straight away. We took this opportunity to explain how participating in charity could be her way of reaching out to those in need. She could always share her skills, her time and her own money to aid in any way she saw fit.
With new found resolve our gentle girl announced that she would like to
always be involved with charity. We were very proud, that day, of our aptly named daughter, Grace.