This blog was submitted by Roxanne Porter on behalf of nannyjob.org.
One of the many challenges that parents face is teaching their children the concept of compassion and how important helping others simply for the sake of doing good is. It can be a bit difficult for little ones to grasp the concept of acting selflessly, even when they may feel sympathy and compassion, and it’s important to teach them to act on these feelings.
Here are ten ways to help children of all ages understand and practice compassion for fellow creatures.
- Volunteer at a Retirement Home – While nursing homes and convalescent care homes can be a little frightening for young children, retirement homes with more active elderly occupants can provide great opportunities for volunteering, which can help your child understand the value of helping those that have a difficult time doing some things themselves.
- Work at a Soup Kitchen or Homeless Shelter – Most cities have a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or outreach program for the homeless people in their area; some even have specialized programs for young people and children to volunteer alongside a parent. These programs can be ideal for teaching your children the finer points of compassion.
- Volunteer at a Local Animal Shelter – Learning to love animals, and to help those that have been abused or neglected starts with hands-on care. If you don’t have the adequate space or lifestyle to adopt a shelter pet of your own, volunteering at a local facility can help your child reap the benefits of caring for animals and learn the value of protecting them. If possible, look for no-kill shelters so that your child won’t become attached to an animal that will be euthanized or, even worse, accidentally witness the process.
- Talk About Bullying – Sometimes, the best way to teach new concepts to your child is to simply talk about the things going on in their lives and apply it to the idea you’re trying to pass on. If your child approaches you with the story of a classmate that’s being bullied, it can present a great opportunity to explain what compassion is, why it’s important, and what your child can do to help.
- Use Story Time – Children’s books today touch on almost any subject you can think of, tackling complex concepts in ways that are easier for kids to grasp and apply to their own lives. Browsing your local bookstore for titles about compassion, giving, sympathy and empathy can be a good way for you to both bond over story time and share these essential concepts.
- Sponsor a Child – There are many reputable foundations that allow the more fortunate to sponsor a child living in poverty. Most will send photographs of the sponsored child and even forward letters they’ve written, helping your own children to understand the realities of life in a poverty-stricken or war-torn nation while fostering a sense of compassion.
- Look Into Your Local Make A Wish Foundation – Though it’s a grim reality and one that parents often do not want to discuss with their children, life-threatening and terminal illnesses do strike kids as well as adults. Organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation help kids with those illnesses to realize a dream or make one wish come true for them; volunteering with MAW or an equivalent on the local level along with your child can help them feel compassion and to empathize with children their own age in difficult situations.
- Start a “Thankful” List – One of the best ways to help kids feel compassion for those that are less fortunate is to first help them understand just how much they have to be grateful for. Starting a “thankful” list that each member of the family contributes to each day can help your child look for the blessings in their life and appreciate them, which will also help them learn to feel a desire to help those with fewer things to be thankful for.
- Tailor Volunteer Opportunities to Kids’ Interests – It’s easier to get older kids to willingly participate in volunteer programs and to reap the benefits that come from joining in eagerly by tailoring their experience to their existing interests. Take your child’s individual hobbies into account when searching for a volunteer opportunity; it could make quite a difference in how effective the experience is.
- Lead By Example – More than anything else, parents who want to instill a sense of compassion and a desire to help others in their children should do their best to be a role model of such behavior. Kids learn by modeling themselves after the adults in their lives; witnessing their parents in the act of being compassionate and giving is the best way for kids to be inspired to behave similarly.
From a very young age, children have the ability to feel compassion, though they will express those feelings with simple phrasing like “I’m sad that…” or “I feel sorry for…” Encouraging these feelings and helping them to understand why they feel that way and what they can do to help will help to set a foundation for compassionate giving later in life.
What are some other ways you teach your children about compassion?
Image source: Savvy Daddy