We’ve all seen a lot in the last year or so. We’ve seen some people rise up to help out their communities and become heroes. And we’ve also seen people reach some ultimate lows in their behavior and become villains.
A lot of us have worries for the future – our children’s future, especially. Is there anything we can do to make the world a better place for them?
Maybe we can’t change the world, but, as parents, we can do something to change the life and behavior of our children.
9 Ways to Raise a Compassionate Child
1. Show an example
To help our children learn compassion and empathy, the first place to start is with ourselves. Be the change you want your children to see in this world. Model empathy, be kind, and point out kindness in others, too, to make sure your kids notice it. “That was kind of that person to open the door for us.”
On the flip side, if you notice someone being rude, analyze with your kids about how that person must’ve had a bad day. Help them learn to assume the best in others. And when you’ve done wrong, be a little vulnerable and apologize. Demonstrate how to own up to your mistakes.
2. Be respectful to your child
Sometimes adults seem to forget that children are just miniature adults. They still deserve the same respect any human deserves. For example, give transition warnings when you’re about to change activities (instead of ripping them away). Be patient with them – they’re young and learning and trying. Say yes to their ideas now and then.
And finally, believe in your child. Believe they can be kind. Assume the best about them.
3. Practice self-care
Parents everywhere – especially moms – are experiencing burnout from parenting during a pandemic. Learn to make yourself slow down and rest now and then. Take care of yourself. Not only will this help you recharge and be a better parent – but it also teaches your child about self-compassion. Which is just as important as compassion for others ever was.
4. Practice caring for others
Help your child practice caring for others in small, simple ways. Do something nice for a sibling, be kind to a new friend, or care for a sick parent. Cook meals together. Encourage them to surprise others by completing little chores and tasks for them. Inspire the members of your family to take care of one another.
Caring for a pet or emotional support animal can offer an excellent opportunity to learn compassion. (If you think it could be helpful for someone in your family, find out how to become eligible for an emotional support animal.)
Simply taking good care of plants, toys, possessions, and your home can help instill in your children the values of compassion and responsibility.
5. Teach about feelings
Help your child identify emotions in themselves and others. Point them out. Give them names so your child knows what to call them. Help them recognize the facial expressions that accompany different emotions. With some pictures, you can even make a game out of it! This will help your child to grow the skills of empathizing with others’ feelings.
6. Be aware of messaging from the media
Choose movies and books that send positive messages about kindness. Start with this list of children’s books about empathy. And when your child watches or reads something, be there to help them discern the lessons from those stories.
7. Celebrate differences
Children sometimes fear things or people that are different – simply because they don’t know any better. We have to teach them. Show your child that members of the human race come in all varieties, and that’s a beautiful thing. Demonstrate the importance of being inclusive of people of all different shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and abilities.
8. Exercise gratitude
Gratitude has a way of softening hearts. Guide your children to be grateful for the blessings in their lives. Influence them to notice others who are struggling and step up to the responsibility to help others out who are in need.
9. Complete service projects together
As a family, work together to develop ways to reach out in the community and help out. Make it part of your quality time together. Consider applying the help of something like this service, designed for families to connect by giving compassion and service to others through creativity, crafting, reading, and other projects.
Kindness starts with you. Change starts with you. If we do our part to raise kids who are compassionate and empathetic, maybe one day they’ll go out and make their little corner of the world a better place.