From as early as two years of age, children begin to show signs of empathy, whereby they understand how someone is feeling even when they do not feel the same way themselves. However, egocentrism is still very much dominant at this age, you simply cannot expect a toddler to be wholeheartedly altruistic – you can’t really expect that of anyone.
So, when should children begin to be introduced to the notion of charity? And how should they be introduced? Many parents and/or guardians approach this in different ways, while schools also regularly involve children in fundraising events.
Understanding What Charity Is
At the age of three or four, children begin to understand that everyone has their own life, effectively understanding that the world does not, in fact, revolve around them. This is the perfect age for parents/guardians to broaden their child’s horizons in the way of the world, teaching them that not everyone is as lucky as they are.
Of course, make sure to approach the subject tentatively – at this point, focus more on what other people do not have that they do, as opposed to why they find themselves in such a situation. By beginning to understand that there are others who do not have the same luxuries that they make take for granted, they can begin to empathise in a different way, whilst also valuing what they do have a little bit more.
Make Charity Fun
Giving and raising money for charity doesn’t have to be all so serious, even though the end goal is to help those that find themselves in all too serious situations. Fundraisers are often fun and something that children can get involved with in all manner of ways.
One of the best examples of children getting involved with charity is Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day, which sees children and adults up and down the country donate a pound in return for a red nose that they can wear. Other activities also take place in schools that are brilliant for children to learn about charity and what it is they are raising money for in a fun environment.
In many cultures, charitable causes and the act of giving is taught from an early age. For example, charity makes up one of the five pillars of Islam and one of the main aspects of Ramadan are donations to charitable organisations.
Charity, however, is not simply about giving money and expecting someone else to do something amazing with it. Time is, arguably, our most important commodity because we will simply never get it back. In many cultures, it is normal practice to be as hands-on as possible when helping the less fortunate – volunteering in shelters, giving food to the homeless and simply lending an ear to listen to their struggles are all forms of non-financial charity.
Charity helps to form a better understanding of the world outside of our homes, the acknowledgement that there is much more than what is immediately outside of the doorstep. As has already been mentioned, children, at toddler age, are egocentric by nature despite forming the early stages of empathy.
The ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes is something that has to be learned, but curiously it’s never actually something that we are directly taught by parents/guardians or teachers. We form empathy as a result of the surroundings and environment around us – if we were conditioned to believe that the world does revolve around us, we wouldn’t grow up thinking anything else to be true.
Introducing children to charity helps to develop their understanding of the world around them, as well as developing their own psychology.