This time of year, especially, I think about the importance of instilling in children a heart of compassion and giving, and of teaching them to value what really matters in life. Commercials this time of year are often focused on materialism and buying children every little thing that their hearts desire. Parents often feel pressured into all of the shopping because they want their children to be happy. The happiness of materialism is temporary however. By teaching children to think of the needs and feelings of others, they will have a life-lasting contentment and a sense of purpose as they grow, which will remain with them into adulthood.
So, how can parents instill a heart of compassion and giving in their children? Parents can instill compassion in children through modeling it, talking about it, and through doing things that embody compassion and giving with their children. Children learn the most from what they see modelled by parents and adults in their lives. They also learn from what their parents say and the activities that they do together.
If you desire to have children that have compassion for others and for them to grow up to be content, purposeful adults, it is very important to model compassion in your everyday life around your children. Your children are watching you to see how you treat others, how you speak to people on the phone, how you interact with people in the store, and how you act in your car during rush hour. The other suggestions listed below will have very little impact if these above prerequisites aren’t fulfilled.
One very important way to teach compassion is to talk to your children about giving and the feelings and needs of others. With preschoolers, you can talk to them about feelings and emotions, how they feel, and the feelings of others. You can read books with them or show them flashcards on emotions, so that they can learn to identify facial expressions with the coinciding emotions. Books are a great way to teach children about compassion and giving. Preschoolers also learn well through the use of puppets, and they love to listen to the puppets read the stories. You can have the puppets demonstrate various emotions and scenarios, and then you can ask your children how the puppet feels. Is the puppet sad? Is the puppet lonely? Is the puppet happy? Is the puppet angry? Some great examples of books that teach children about compassion and giving include Mine-O-Saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, One Winter’s Day by M. Christina Butler, An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco, Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming, and Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story.
Another important way to instill compassion in children is through doing activities with them. A great way to do that this time of year is to have your children make homemade gifts for their siblings or other family members. You could help them to make a list of the things that their siblings or family members like, and then help them to make homemade gifts for those family members. Another really good way to teach children to think of others is to have them volunteer. They could visit with the elderly in a nursing home or you could help your children to make cookies for a lonely neighbor. You could also help your children to pick out a gift for a less fortunate child in the area. It’s good to have conversations with your children about the feelings of those people that they would be volunteering to help. You could ask them how they think the elderly woman in the nursing home may feel this time of year with very little family to visit her. Then you can ask your children how they think the elderly woman will feel when your children visit her. You could ask them how the less fortunate child may be feeling during this holiday season, and then ask them how the child will feel after receiving the gift that your children picked out for them.
This time of year when you may be feeling the pressure of all of the commercialism, thinking that your children have to have everything on their Santa list in order to be happy, remember to give them that which will make them truly fulfilled and content. While there is nothing wrong with buying them the things on their lists, buying all of those things without giving your children the gift of feeling and showing compassion toward others would be a sad omission from your list. Instilling the art of compassion in your children can also be a great time of bonding with them, and you can create wonderful memories with them that you and your children will cherish for a lifetime.
Written by Elisha Hines, Owner and Founder of La Creme Nannies.