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Getting your children interested in being charitable

A study from Fidelity Charitable finds that children who participated in strong family giving traditions are more benevolent, and happier, as adults.

Children who participate in charitable giving or deeds

Children who participate in charitable giving or deeds with their parents are more likely to be charitable themselves as adults--and happier, a study found. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Steve Debenport

You remember that proverb “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it?" It rings true with new research from Fidelity Charitable, an independent public charity affiliated with Fidelity Investments, and the nation’s second-largest grant-maker.

The study from the Boston-based organization looked at how the giving habits and priorities experienced during one’s childhood affect how a person gives back as an adult, and how giving traditions influence a family’s vibe, including happiness.

The research found that:

•45 percent of respondents who grew up with strong giving traditions donate $5,000 or more to charity annually

•89 percent volunteer an average of eight hours a month.

48 percent of people who experienced strong giving traditions during their childhood consider themselves a very happy person today, compared to 33 percent who did not grow up with strong traditions.

So, with those results, how best to turn your child on to charity?

Do something together

“Our research shows that respondents who engaged in charitable activities as a family while growing up — whether going to church, volunteering together or attending a philanthropic event — are more likely to give more as adults,” says Elaine Martyn, Fidelity Charitable’s family philanthropy expert in Manhattan.

Talk about giving

Share with your children where and how much you like to give to charities. Explain why you give and the difference you can make in the world. Discuss your family’s values and the importance of doing your part, says Martyn.

Get them started

Give children an allowance and have them put a portion of it aside for causes they care about, suggests Aviva Pinto, director of Bronfman Rothschild, a wealth management firm in Manhattan.

Patti Black, a certified financial planner with Bridgeworth in Birmingham, Alabama, shares her strategy: “For years, I’ve taken my kids and a few of their friends out after Christmas to perform random acts of kindness. We start with breakfast and make a list of places to go and things we want to do, like taping coins to a drink machine, delivering doughnuts to our local fire station and library, taking flowers to an assisted living facility. It’s a great antidote to the ‘gimmes’ of the holiday season.”


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