Every parent wants their kid to grow up to be good and decent. To do this, you have to actively teach things like empathy and compassion. It should start in childhood but must continue even when they are teenagers.
A common question in every parent’s mind is how they can teach these values. Simple everyday actions can help, such as the following:
Talk about feelings
One of the most important things in a parent-child relationship is considering the child’s feelings. Children, especially younger ones, experience emotions that are new to them. They do not fully understand or comprehend what these feelings are, what they mean, and what to do with them.
Understanding emotions is an important step in becoming a compassionate person. Discussing how feelings work helps kids regulate their emotions.
Studies found that children who understand their emotions better can better control how they respond to strong emotions. It creates a label for these emotions and helps them realize what things or actions make them feel bad. By acknowledging what makes them feel bad, they can better understand why doing the same to others would hurt them.
At the same time, expressing your own emotions can also help with poor behavior. Children generally don’t want their parents to feel bad or hurt. If you let them know that certain actions hurt them, they will understand that they shouldn’t do this in the future.
Make words and actions consistent
Children are quite impressionable. Even after you’ve taught them life lessons, they will continue to learn from your actions. If you say one thing at home and do the opposite outside your home, they will remember this. This is why you should be compassionate yourself, whether you’re around them at home or with other people outside.
If your actions don’t match your words, it sends mixed signals to your children. It could backfire when they become teens or adults. They could rebel against you and claim that you also don’t follow your own teachings.
Sometimes, kids would ask you why you are doing certain things. Your explanations also matter because these will show the motives behind your actions. They will determine your children’s motives behind being compassionate in the future.
For example, if your explanation tells them that your actions are mostly for personal gain, they may learn false empathy and become manipulative.
This one may be a bit difficult for some parents. As much as you don’t like it, your experiences are largely shaped by numerous factors, such as race and economic status. Often, people have difficulty empathizing with those with a different social status. Since you have never been in their position, you might find it hard to understand their struggles.
Part of being compassionate means having an open mind to people different from you. If you want to teach this aspect of compassion to your children, you have to be more inclusive. It means interacting with and welcoming people of a different race or color, gender orientation, socioeconomic status, etc. Sheltering your kids does not help them because they become detached from reality.
Inclusivity can come in different forms. It can be inviting the more disadvantaged kids to parties or helping them out in other ways. It can also manifest itself in efforts to reduce practices based on racist beliefs.
Studies found that many parents, despite wanting more diversity, still lean towards practices that promote segregation. You have to be careful with these kinds of situations because it can tell your kids that only certain people have a privilege.
Volunteer in care homes
Outside your home, volunteer work is the best way to teach kids compassion, especially to older adults. They witness the lives other people undergo and learn from their stories. There are tons of charities, nonprofits, and other organizations you can visit and have them work with safely.
Retirement homes and hospice care centers are always glad to have kids around. These places are a good way to teach empathy to the elderly and people at the end of their lives.
The concept of age and death are often hard to explain to kids, and this experience can help them understand it better. At the same time, the people here usually enjoy having young visitors. It revitalizes them and brings back happy memories of their active days.
For older children, you can look for organizations that can use their skills, such as arts, music, public speaking, baking, and others. Volunteering teaches them to use their talents for good deeds. It’s a practice they can bring with them to adulthood and pass on to their own kids.