Children today are growing up in an egocentric society. ‘Me’ is at the center of our daily lives: we post our faces on Instagram (in 2013, the word ‘selfie’ was named Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year), we post status updates on Facebook and Twitter, and we’re constantly talking about ourselves. Our children are developing in the midst of it all.
Compassion is based on an awareness of others and their feelings; Webster defines it as a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Compassion implies action. In the grand scheme, we’re all in this together and if we don’t promote compassion among our youth, we’re going to be in trouble. In this world of ‘me, me, me,’ here are some tips for encouraging compassion in your children.
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Your kids are watching you, maybe even more than you’re watching them. So, lead the way. Show compassion in your dealings with others and in your interactions with your children. Go out of your way to volunteer or help out in your community. Your child will internalize both your big and small displays of compassion and this will inform their future behaviors.
Boost their Emotional Vocabulary
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In order to better understand what others are feeling, we need to be able to describe and recognize it. Practice this with your children by creating feelings flash cards that each have an image of someone experiencing an emotion. Begin with simple emotions — happy, sad, angry — before progressing to ones like irritated, distressed and shy.
Point Out Compassion
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When you’re watching the news with your child or when you’re walking down the street and you notice a compassionate act, point it out. If you see a young person give up their seat on the train for an elderly person, tap your child on the shoulder. If you see a report on the news or a viral story about a compassionate act, share it with your child. Remind them that compassion has a place in our world.
Volunteer in Your Community
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Encourage your child to engage in compassionate acts through volunteering. Pass out food at your local homeless shelter. Your child will be able to look into someone’s eyes, speak to them and acknowledge their humanity. Make sure they realise that life is about more than just taking—it’s about giving back. Depending on the sort of activity you find, your child may even discover a new passion.
Write Thank-You Notes
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No matter if someone has done you a small favor or made a real difference in your life, it’s important to thank them. Teach your child the value of recognizing and appreciating others by writing thank-you notes regularly. Help them write cards for the teachers, coaches and friends. When they give them to the people in their lives, your children will see just how good it makes others feel to be appreciated.
There are countless ways to give back in your community; research some opportunities and make a family event of it!
Feature Image: Ž. Markevičius