How to Help Your Children Develop Compassion
Raising children in today’s world is a challenge, especially when it comes to instilling a sense of compassion in a world that seems increasingly apathetic. Helping your kids learn the importance of helping and feeling genuine sympathy for others isn’t such a complex proposition, though, it’s only one that requires a strong investment of time and effort.
One of the most effective and rewarding ways of introducing your kids to the concept of helping others and underscoring the importance of treating them with compassion is to volunteer together. Working in a no-kill animal shelter together is a great option, as it will allow your kids to bond with the animals without forcing them to face the complex and painful concept of death after euthanasia that occurs at a traditional shelter. Homeless shelters that cater to women and children are another great option, as are food banks and programs through your place of worship that are targeted at making a positive, real and quantifiable difference in your community.
Get a Family Pet
Most parents cringe when their children start begging for a family pet, but there’s actually a wealth of lessons that can be learned from caring for and being responsible for a family pet from a young age. When your child learns to genuinely care for someone outside of themselves and their immediate family unit, they’re sowing the seeds of compassion and gentleness. Watching a pet thrive under their care is also a great confidence booster, showing your child that his attention and care have made a noticeable difference in the life of another living being.
Even when they get a bit older and start acting like you’re the biggest embarrassment in the world, your children are still carefully watching your actions and observing you to learn the appropriate responses for a variety of situations. They will emulate the behavior they see in you, so make a concerted effort to model compassion and gentleness in everyday life. Remember, a “do as I say, not as I do” approach to parenting is ultimately counterproductive. It’s important to model the behavior you want your kids to exhibit as they grow.
Use Everyday Talking Points to Start Conversations
The homeless man on the corner or the abandoned animal outside might be saddening and a bit upsetting for your child, but they also provide valuable talking points that will open up conversations about compassion and the importance of helping others. Be sure that you take action to help those that need it, though. Just talking about them as you pass them by is not demonstrating compassion, nor is it teaching your child the best ways of showing compassion themselves.
Demonstrate the Importance of Helping
You can tell kids all day long that it’s important to help others and to be compassionate, but it isn’t likely to sink in unless you’re actively taking steps to practice what you preach. Show kids how to help others, but also talk about why it’s important to do so. Help your little ones understand that the more fortunate have a responsibility to help those in need and that they should always do their best to make the world a better place when the opportunity arises.
Teach Healthy Ways of Managing Anger
It may seem unrelated, but it’s important to help your child learn healthy and productive ways of managing any feelings of anger or frustration that they have if you want them to learn compassion. Being consumed with anger or feeling frustrated is the antithesis to actions of compassion, love and assistance. When your child knows how to manage his anger, he’ll be more apt and more prepared to help those in need and to feel compassion for those that are less fortunate.
Provide Plenty of Opportunities to Be Compassionate
While it’s important to take advantage of talking points when they arise, it’s also important to teach your kids about compassion in action by providing them with plenty of opportunities to act on the feeling. Compassion is about more than feeling an emotion; it’s also about taking action to make a difference.