Is it your heart to have compassionate children? I know it is mine. The thought that my girls might bully someone or be part of anything like that is a horrible one to me. Thankfully my girls love people, want to be a good friend, and do feel empathy and compassion for others. But it is also something to work on with them.
WHAT IS COMPASSION?
The meaning of compassion is to recognize the suffering of others and then take action to help. Compassion embodies a tangible expression of love for those who are suffering.
This is different to empathy, which is our feeling of awareness toward other people’s emotions and an attempt to understand how they feel.
WHY TEACH COMPASSION?
Teaching compassion is important for several reasons:
- Compassion allows children to develop strong and healthy relationships with others
- It has a positive effect on self-image, mental and emotional health
- Teaching compassion to children is an effective way to prevent bullying
- You learn to treat others with kindness and respect, creating a safe and inclusive environment
- It builds social skills
- We instill values that promote empathy and understanding on a broader scale. This creates a future generation of global citizens who are more inclined to make positive contributions to their communities and the world.
- It builds moral character
HOW CAN WE TEACH IT?
Compassion is something that can be taught and practiced. It will take time but it will be worth it.
1. Lead by example
Children learn a lot by observation. So, it’s important to model compassionate behavior in your own actions and interactions with others.
2. Believe your child is capable of being kind
We need to believe in our children and they need to know this. Every child can be kind. So can every adult! (They just need to remember this sometimes.)
3. Nurture empathy
Encourage your children to think about things from another person’s perspective. This is not easy at the beginning. Help them understand how their words or actions may affect others. Calling someone names can hurt their feelings. Encourage kindness and understanding towards others’ feelings. Do role play at home and talk about different situations as they arise.
4. Teach kindness
Teach your children about the importance of being kind to others. Encourage them to perform small acts of kindness, such as sharing toys or helping someone in need. We tell our girls that kindness is their superpower. You can change a person’s day by being kind.
5. Practice gratitude
This can be tough for children to see – how to appreciate what they have and express gratitude for it. “It’s not fair” can be a regular cry. Encourage them to be thankful for the things others do for them, as it helps develop empathy and compassion towards others.
6. Show your child how to help people in need
You can encourage your children to donate a toy they have outgrown to the annual toy drive, while you buy a set of blocks to give away. You can also make cookies for a shelter or you could visit someone in the hospital or nursing home. Volunteering is so important. (Here is a blog/vlog on that topic.)
7. Teach about diversity
There is amazing diversity in the world – different cultures, traditions, and perspectives. Help your children to understand and appreciate this diversity. We need to embrace and respect differences in others.
8. Read and discuss storybooks
There are many wonderful books that promote kindness, empathy, and compassion. After reading, discuss the story with your children and ask questions about how the characters felt and how they would have reacted in similar situations.
9. Encourage mindfulness
Teach your children to be present and aware of their own feelings as well as the feelings of others. This self-awareness can help them understand and respond to others’ emotions with compassion.
Let’s not forget that teaching compassion is an ongoing process that requires patience and consistency – lots of patience and lots of consistency. Your children will not get it all at once. Kindness and compassion are learned and life presents challenging situations even to adults. Being a loving parent and a great role model will go a long way toward raising a wonderful, tolerant human being. I know that we can raise compassionate children that will change the world!