We all want our children to grow up to be kind, compassionate, happy adults.
Research has shown that engaging in acts of compassion increases individual happiness, well-being and physical health. One study found that even in toddlers as young as 2 years old (yes, even those little monsters) giving to others made them happier than being on the receiving end. We are all born with an innate sense of compassion, but while adults have the benefit of learned impulse control and the understanding that tomorrow is another day, children live in the moment, at the mercy of feelings they can't even name. So how can we help them tap into this beneficial ability?
Live our own lives compassionately
If there is a golden rule of parenting, it's probably this: If you're gonna talk the talk, you'd better walk the walk. Our kids learn how to be people by watching us, so if we want them to become compassionate people, we have to show them how. First and foremost by addressing their needs. Particularly when they are pushing our buttons. It's often in those moments when we aren't exactly bursting with spontaneous compassion that our kids need our comfort the most. And when we screw up? We can admit it. We can apologize if an apology is in order.
Talk to our kids about compassion
There are lots of ways to bring compassion into the conversation with kids, since it plays a role in so many aspects of our day to day lives. We can't force them to be kind or care about others, but we can certainly sing their praises when they do, and we can ask questions that lead them to both articulate their own feelings in a given situation and ponder how someone else might feel. Examples can be found during dinnertime discussions of the day's events, while moderating sibling disputes, or by reading books or watching movies together that tell stories of compassion and kindness. Younger children especially are still learning how to name their feelings, and by helping them do so we are not only teaching them how to communicate but also helping them develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
For a list of books with compassionate themes for all ages, click here: http://www.the-best-childrens-books.org/teaching-compassion.html
For movie suggestions, click here: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/movies-that-inspire-compassion
Encourage acts of compassion
Cheering up a sad friend, comforting a sick sibling, or helping a neighbor are all acts of compassion. We can help our children write sincere thank-you notes for received gifts, or volunteer in our community. You can find family friendly volunteer opportunities here on the Parent Talk website, such as our upcoming Project Night Night event on April 8th (info below). Check out this article for more Boston-area volunteering ideas:
About the Author:
Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s very excited to be taking on the role of blog coordinator. Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here: Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.comPlease join us on Saturday, April 8th, from 10-11:30am for Project Night Night Bag Decorating and Playtime. We'll provide all the supplies you need to decorate your bag(s), plus your child(ren) can enjoy the playspace when they are done with their bag(s). Bring your PNN bag(s) or bring $3.50 for each bag you are picking up at the event, as well as your items to fill them with.
Location: Caryl Community Center, Room 215, 4 Springdale Ave, Dover
More info about Project Night Night: http://www.projectnightnight.org/
Contact: Nar and Julie @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Register (before April 7th):https://www.eventbrite.com/e/project-night-night-bag-decoratingstuffing-and-playtime-tickets-32475977523