I hope to raise my children to show kindness and compassion to the people around them. How can I go about doing so?
We all have the ability to show empathy, even from young. Infants cry or make happy sounds in response to another baby’s noises. According to the American Psychological Association, studies have shown that children can display signs of empathy and compassion from a very early age. They react with concern when they witness unhappiness and want to help or fix the problem.
Parents are the first point of reference for children to learn about compassion or any other values for that matter. Children need to see the authenticity in their parents, where they themselves practise what they teach. When parents demonstrate empathy to those in need or respect to those who are different, children are more likely to do the same.
Also, the atmosphere at home is very important. When the marriage relationship between parents is strong and healthy, and children feel that they are genuinely loved and cared for, they are more likely to give attention to others’ needs and feelings. It is when they feel deprived of that much-needed love and nurturing that they start to focus on themselves and their own needs.
Here are some methods that can be adopted to help children develop empathy and compassion toward others.
Raising children with compassion can and should start early on. Younger children usually consider their own points of view, and have not yet learnt social skills like playing cooperatively or sharing their toys with others.
To coach children at this stage, you can praise and encourage positive cooperative behaviours. You can say something like, “That was kind of you to share your favourite toy train with your friend. Well done!” You can also pretend play with them, giving them roles where they can provide help to those in need, like letting them play the role of a doctor helping his patients.
As your children grow older, you can read them stories and show how to see others through eyes of compassion. For example, in a story where a bully pokes fun at a slow-learning child, help them ponder on actions by asking questions like “What would you do if you were in this story?” “Was he right to do this? “What is the right thing to do?”
Teach your children that everyone is worthy of respect and to be treated with kindness. Remind them to never joke about or ridicule other people despite their circumstances.
Use your child’s own experiences
You can also relate the situations that others face to their own real-life experiences. For example, if there is a new child in class, help your children recall a time when they felt alone or uneasy. How did they feel at that point in time? Was there a friend who helped them or made them feel welcome? This will help them better comprehend how someone else may feel and what he could do to reach out to the new classmate.
Encourage them to take action
Teach your child problem-solving skills and help them to think of solutions in relating to others. Look for ways to help your children notice when someone is in need of help. When you see a family going through a tough time, ask your children, “What do you think we can do as a family to help them?” Let them suggest possible ideas and take steps to carry out those ideas.
When you make the conscious effort to instil compassion in your children from young, it will go a long way in helping them grow into adults who treat others with respect and kindness.
Written by Samantha Chin
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