This is a topic that comes up all of the time with me and my mom friends. How do we raise kids to have empathy for others and to teach them to want to give back and help those in greater need then themselves? It can be so difficult because kids live in such an egocentric world, which is incredibly normal, especially the younger years.
I have tried to show my kids with actions more than with words that there are always others out in the world that either have less than us or may not be as healthy as us and it is our responsibility to help them in any way we can. Doing this in age appropriate ways is key. When they were two we got a bag and went through the house and picked out some toys and other items that they had to give away. Now that my youngest is nine, we are able to talk in great detail about how you can become homeless and that it isn't just adults that are homeless. They were shocked to learn that kids, too, could and are homeless. We have also had and continue to have conversations about kids who aren't as healthy as they are. The goal is to have these topics always part of our conversations so that it's been a "normal" part of their lives continuously. I have brought them to events that I have volunteered at or shared photos of things I have participated in that can show them my actions.
This year we learned that there were 68 kids/48 families that were in one of our local shelters. My kids decided that instead of our annual blanket giving to the homeless for the winter season, they would create gift bags for all of the kids at this local shelter. They did all of the shopping with a budget, of course, (yes, I try to add in some math) and then they did all of the wrapping and delivery. I sure was a proud mom that day. There are so many ways that you and your kids can get involved in your community to give back. Let your kids help choose how you spend your time so that they are more invested. You will find that these days of giving bring you all closer together in such a special way and remember that it is never too late to start giving back/paying it forward.
I now can only hope that as we continue over the next several years doing for others; that this in instill a level of empathy and compassion for those who are in need of more support than we are.