Teaching our children how to be kind, empathetic, and compassionate human beings can feel like an overwhelming task. Especially when your kids are being, well, kids!
Most parents agree that these core values are at the top of our priority list when it comes to values we want to instill in our kids. So, how can we teach these important values while we help nurture our children’s growing personalities and ever-changing emotions?
Start with some practical ideas you can implement right now.
Talk about it. Even when your children are young, you can start talking about what empathy and compassion are. Empathy is understanding and sharing how others are feeling and kids are naturally empathetic. Point out when a sibling is sad and discuss why. Talk about it and bring it to their attention when you see it.
As your kids get a little older, you can start discussing acts of compassion. Compassion goes beyond simply understanding another’s emotion and acts on that understanding. Discuss what your child can do when they see that a sibling or friend is sad. What actions can they take to help? Continue to have these valuable discussions as your children develop and grow.
Model it. Kids watch everything their parents are doing and saying and want to emulate us. So instead of just telling our kids to practice the “Golden Rule,” we have to be consistent in modeling it. Kids will watch our interactions with others and learn from that. Positively model whenever you can and your children will see what you value.
Read about it. Books are wonderful and easy ways to start a rich conversation about empathy and compassion. Kids can relate and connect to characters in a book. Find books that range from preschool to middle school with themes of kindness, empathy, and compassion. Not into reading long books? Try simple short kindness quotes for kids.
Find ways to help others. Look for volunteer opportunities and intentionally seek out ways to help others. Visit an elderly neighbor, make cookies for friends you haven’t seen in awhile, or help at a local homeless shelter. Encourage kind habits like sharing, helping a classmate, and using kind words.
Practice random acts of kindness and pay attention to the effects of kindness. Children will start to notice how spreading kindness and compassion promotes happiness and smiles from others. They will have these feelings too.
Have self-compassion. We all mess up. Be kind to yourself and model that self-compassion to your kids. Making mistakes is part of growing older and life. Being kind all the time is hard- even for adults! Take responsibility when you mess up, apologize, and show your kids how you can move on.There will always be another opportunity to practice empathy, compassion, and kindness.