Teaching Compassion To Children And Teens

I think we can all agree that the world needs more compassion and teaching our children to understand the need for it is a mission we as parents must take on! With growing social media platforms we can sometimes become desensitized to the things happening around us as much of the information about the world today is filtered in some way. Yes, we have all seen photos of suffering but is that enough to teach our children to feel compassion? I think compassion needs to be taught through hands-on learning, yes some of us immediately connect with news stories or seeing a bird with a broken wing but do we actually do anything about it?

I want to see my kids stand up and help, offer kindness to someone who is down on their luck, and know that compassion ALWAYS matters. I’ve created a list of ten ideas to try with your kids that have been successful with mine in our journey to create a more compassionate world.

Ten Compassion Building Ideas

Plant A Garden: Compassion doesn’t just extend to humans and animals but to plants as well. The trees provide us the essential oxygen we need to survive, some bare fruit and essential oils. We acquire vitamins and energy, as well as maintain our health through plant foods and pharmaceuticals that have plant derived ingredients. All of this giving and we so often fail to honour and recognize all that plants and trees do for us. By planting a garden, we teach our children how to show compassion to plants; from a tiny seed in our little one’s hand to the excitement they feel when they see a little sprout appear. Children become invested in their plants; they have a natural desire to nurture and care for new life. This creates compassion not only for the plants they personally grow but the plants and trees they encounter in the outside environment.

Volunteer At The Food Bank: Take your older children to volunteer at your local food bank, there is something interesting that happens to kids as they enter their older child to teen years; for a time many become a little ungrateful and a bit self-absorbed. This is totally normal! It’s hard to go through that tradition from child to teen, and they have a lot going on, but it’s still important for them to recognize the wellbeing of others. Volunteering at a food bank teaches your child that not everyone has the same luxuries you enjoy and many families can’t afford to put food on the table. Working with these families develops an understanding that even in our own communities a large number of families are struggling and could use the help. Even in donating a few hours of their time they can make a difference in the lives of others.

Adopt A Shelter Pet: We all get excited about baby animals but what we often fail to teach our children is that adult or senior pets are just waiting for someone to play with them too. Shelters are full of abandon, lost, or neglected animals and are often overrun with them. Two years ago we adopted a fifteen-year-old labrador who we named Deefer to teach our children about compassion. What they learnt was that even at fifteen and with his old man gray chin Deefer loved to play catch, go for walks, and run around. He lives for play time! Not only that, but he was also well trained, and we didn’t have to deal with any of the puppy drama. We often wonder what he was like as a young pup and the kids like to make up stories about him from his younger days. Of course, with shelter pets, you need to make sure they are a good fit for your family, that they are good with children, and that any health issues they may have are manageable. When we first added Deefer to our family, we were asked why we chose not to get a puppy, and the kids have no problem saying “Old dogs need love too!”.

Make Care Packages For Homeless People: Most people hurry their children away from homeless people as if hoping their children won’t notice them sitting there. I assure you, your child noticed! This is the perfect opportunity to teach your child about compassion and take it to an even higher level. Talking to your child about the homeless in a way that gives a life and story to the people they encounter turns them from someone who is begging to someone who came from somewhere just as they have. Everyone has parents, we all have a family even if some us don’t have a loving family, we didn’t just fall from the sky and become. A series of events has led us to where we are now, and unfortunately, some of us fall into hard times. This doesn’t mean we are any less worthy of compassion. A great way for children to understand compassion is by helping others, small care packages in zip lock bags are a wonderful way to support your local homeless community. Pack some essential items into the bags, like toothbrushes, mini toothpaste, snack items, hats and mittens, matches, etc. Small gestures can go a long way! Though I will say not everyone is going to want a care package, typically if given by a child they are very well received.

Sponsor A Child In Need: If you are able to, consider sponsoring a child in a third world country. Our family had a lovely sponsor child called Faith who lives in Uganda. We made the decision to sponsor through SOS Children’s Villages as after considerable research we found that this organization would make sure the majority of the money we send each month goes directly to Faith’s care and activities. We receive letters and photos from her, and our children love to write and draw pictures for her. It’s a lovely exchange and has sparked a curiosity in my children to learn more about the part of the world Faith lives and what an average day looks like for her.
http://www.sos-childrensvillages.org

Visit Seniors Homes: Caring for someone smaller and younger than ourselves seems to come naturally to most children, but age certainly doesn’t define the level of compassion we require. Visiting seniors homes is a great way for kids to connect with older souls and discover how similar we really are. Aside from learning from the people in the homes an incredible exchange happens, the children add a flair of fun and excitement in the day of the residents and in exchange they are usually given some gem of wisdom. For teens, it’s a wonderful way to make friends with a senior and form a more mature relationship or mentorship.

Consider A Plant-based Lifestyle: Plant-based lifestyles are compassion based, health-based and environmentally based. It’s very easy for us to disconnect the link between animals and food as most of us grow up eating animal products. When looking at a bigger picture it a pretty good assumption that the animals who are raised for meat would rather live, and the environmental effects of factory farming is doing a considerable amount of damage to our environment. Living a plant-based lifestyle means no longer purchasing or consuming products that are animal derived creating a more gentle way of life. Teaching your children compassion for animals through this type of lifestyle has not only health benefits but is also delicious! This doesn’t mean you have to make the change overnight, many people are making gradual changes toward a plant-based lifestyle, and that is a fantastic step to take!

Donate To A Local Cause: Hop online and check out Go Fund Me, you will be surprised at how many local causes you will find. From families that have encountered death, to injuries, and ailing family members, each of these local causes will have a story. When something happens in your life that is difficult or traumatic, community support is incredibly important. Share the stories of these people with your children and ask them how they think they can help.

Get Your Teens and Children Excited About Volunteer Work: Get your kids involved in volunteer work and helping others! The organization Change Gamers has developed an app that makes charity work and volunteering fun, with a great community they are making positive contributions to communities near you! Great online discussion and brainstorming add to the community lead by the Change Gamers Ambassadors who empower kids to change the world! Check them out at https://www.changegamers.com

Donate Gently Used Toys To Children: Have you ever walked into your child’s room, looked around and thought “Where did all of this stuff some from?!” I am with you! With six kids in our home we are at a surplus of barely used toys, and every year around the holidays we get our kids to go through their rooms and find the toys they no longer use. We always make sure these toys are clean and gently used and explain to our kids how happy another child will be to have them to play with. These toys can be dropped off at your local food bank for holiday hampers or to many various organizations such as The Women’s Shelter and the Salvation Army.

Many little things that can go a long way! Let me know in the comments what you have tried that worked for you. Of course, this goes without saying, safety is always the number one priority, I encourage my kids to be as compassionate as possible, but never at the expense of their personal safety. Unfortunately, not everyone is full of kindness, and this too is a lesson we should inform our kids about.

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