Tuesday, January 24, 2012
We all think we know just how important compassion really is and many of us even think of ourselves as compassionate. But for the most part it's not until your sick and in need of human kindess and compassion that you learn how compassionate (or NOT) the people around you are.
It is believed that we undergo hard times just to learn how to be more compassionate after someone else befalls the same fate. With my recent health scare and horrific hospital stay I quickly learned how compassionate and in some cases what a lack of compassion the people around me exhibited. Oddly enough sometimes during times of stress or illness you will find complete strangers show you more kindness and compassion than people you love and trust.
How can we turn this around? You cannot change someone's true nature, but if you are a parent, you have a shot at raising a compassionate human being, one who shows kindess to others when it's needed most.
Compassion is one of those character traits that some children seem to possess in abundance right from the beginning, while others appear to have a woefully short supply of it. There's the tiny tot who runs right over to his friend when he falls, places an arm around that friend's shoulder, and inquires: "Are you okay?" Meanwhile, his peers gawk awkwardly, or continue about their business.
If it's not in your child's nature to be the compassionate one, know that this is completely normal. Many young children simply don't know how to express compassion, or are not tuned in to others' feelings. But you can introduce your child to the significance of compassion and how to express it. Here are some concrete ways how.
Nurture the idea of our connectedness to communities. All children live in a community and spend time daily with a community of peers, whether in a child care or school setting. Talk with your child about how important these communities are to us, what we get out of them, and how we can give back to them, e.g., taking part in 'stream clean up days' or similar community-wide events. The dynamic and reciprocal relationship that exists among healthy communities and their members represents an expression of compassion.
Assign to your child the responsibility of caring for something. Start with a small but significant task. If you have a pet, you can make its daily feeding your child's responsibility. Make sure your child understands the importance of what she's doing, and how this other being relies on her assistance.
Provide your children with the vocabulary of compassion. You're at the playground and the little boy swinging next to your son tumbles to the ground. This is an opportunity for you to say to your child: "Let's make sure that little boy is okay. Why don't we ask him if he is hurt, and if he needs some help." The first few times this happens, your child may just watch as you talk. But over time, he may find the courage to approach another child in need, and he'll know what to say.
Nurture your child's compassionate "niche." Some kids who see an injured bird on the sidewalk have an overwhelming urge to nurse it back to health. Others might walk right by the bird, but be the first to reach their friend who has taken a spill. Encourage your child's compassion in whatever form you find it. There's no one way, or right way, to show it.
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FTC Disclosure: This article was provided and sponsored by Kiddie Academy®. The company has been a leader in education-based childcare for 30 years serving families and their children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old, offering full time care, before- and after-school care and summer camp programs. You can visit the KA Family Essentials blog and LIKE them on FB as well as Twitter @KiddieAcademy for additional information.