How To Get Grandchildren Involved in Charity

'Tis the season to show grandchildren the importance of giving back

By Cindy Richards

The holiday season is a time for giving, but is the message of sharing the wealth getting lost in the commercial clutter? It doesn’t have to. Grandparents around the country are finding ways — some subtle, some not so subtle — to drive home to their grandchildren the idea that it can be fun to give. Follow these tips to follow their lead.

1. Be a Role Model

The first step toward helping your grandchildren become more charitable is to model charitable behavior for them, says Susan Beacham, CEO of Money Savvy Generation, a company that helps parents and grandparents teach kids how to be financially fit. Tell your grandchildren about the causes you support and let them see you write a check. Better yet, take them along the next time you volunteer.

2. Start Small

Many groups have programs that arrange for children to buy holiday gifts for kids from needy families. Contact your place of worship, the United Way, or another local charity to find such a program in your area, and ask to be matched with a family that has kids your grandchildren’s ages. Then take your grandchildren to the mall, give them a budget, and let them pick out the gifts.

That’s how the Tuohy family of Chicago started its Christmas tradition. Instead of just buying gifts for each other, they now get presents for 1,200 needy people across the city. Tom Tuohy started the foundation 19 years ago at the urging of his mother, Patricia. His niece Heather Mix, 19, has never done anything else on the Saturday before Christmas but attend the family’s Dreams for Kids Holiday of Hope charitable party, an annual event that now takes place in more than 35 cities across seven countries.

3. Make It a Tradition

Carol Weisman of St. Louis, Mo., the author of Raising Charitable Children, (F. E. Robbins & Sons) calls her family together each year on Christmas for a "Joy and Sadness Meeting." At the meeting, everyone shares what made them happy or sad during the year, and then lobbies for a cause that deserves the family's philanthropic support in the year ahead.

The tradition started when Weisman’s kids were grade-schoolers, and she plans to pass it along to her grandchildren; her first is an infant. “One year, one of the kids was talking about how it irritates him that all of his professional decisions are based on the need to have health insurance,” Weisman says. That “sadness” turned into a plan to pay for a year’s worth of health insurance for a single mom whose daughter had asthma.

4. Make It Meaningful

You can turn holiday traditions into opportunities for giving. Marianne and Stuart Taussig of Illinois buy each of their eight grandchildren two gifts every Chanukah. One is for the child, and the other is a bookmark explaining that a book was purchased in his or her name and given to a needy child in Israel. “We try our best do these subtle things to help our kids not only appreciate what they have, but know that not everybody in the world is as lucky as they are,” says Marianne Taussig, whose oldest grandchild is 13. “They all love books, so they know that getting a new book is a very special thing.”

For Rose Logston of Ohio and her grandchildren, baking cookies together is a holiday tradition that continues even though her oldest grandchild is now a teenager. The cookies aren't just for their own holiday table, though: They bring the treats to residents of a nearby senior high-rise (including Logston's mother), as well as to groups that help local needy families. Logston says the senior residents enjoy the delivery visits from her grandchildren even more than the cookies themselves.


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