Compassion in Action - Teaching Children
As a parent, it is hard to be always in 'teacher mode.' No one can be a role model every minute of every day, but that doesn't mean our children aren't paying attention. Children learn by mimicking our behaviour and as such, incorporating compassionate actions into our day-to-day is so important.
Parent as Compassionate Role Model
Let them see you be kind, caring, and mindful. Instill a desire to be empathic, courageous, and compassionate. We can be positive by teaching simple behaviours such as taking 'scary' spiders and 'annoying' flies outside instead of killing them. Talking kindly to a timid animal or gently petting and whispering to an injured furry friend, or one that is old or may be scared.
Encouraging kindness while being mindful allows your little ones to become aware of the animal's personality and learn more about its abilities or lack of ability. Most children will be able to absorb this and then apply this understanding when interacting with friends, such as a school mate with a broken arm, someone on crutches after an accident, or who needs a wheelchair to get around.
Parent as the Reinforcer
Just as we give a dog a treat when they sit when instructed, we must also notice and praise children when doing the behaviour we have been teaching. Use direct verbal praise in the moment or reward them with additional time and attention with an animal or friend when they show compassion and empathy for animals. Children respond well to positive attention from others. They are willing to do those behaviours again, without even thinking about it.
Activities that Promote Empathy and Compassion
Try not allowing your children to spend time with the television or video games, and show them that participating in caring activities with animals and other people can be fun and fulfilling.
Empathy-building activities can include the following:
- Visit or sign-up to volunteer at your local animal shelter with your child to help care for rescue animals. In the Lower Mainland, many organizations are needing a helping hand.
- Start a small garden for bees, birds, and other wildlife to visit throughout the year. Use the internet to search and learn about the different species.
- Go for walks on the beach or in the forest and pick-up litter left behind by others. Explain how plastic rings, pop bottles, and other garbage can kill animals, not only in where you are but also in the ocean.
When a companion animal passes away emotions can be heightened, so it is best to take it seriously. Whether it is a cat or dog, goldfish or bunny, celebrate the life lived. While it may be hard, try to create positive funeral and memorial experiences with your children. Learning to process emotions after a loss is significant and helps lay the groundwork for future losses.
Think of yourself as the gatekeeper to your child’s heart. Your actions will create the basis of their ability and desire to love, be mindful, and compassionate for life. Reading together is an incredible bonding process that teaches trust and confidence. No matter the age of your children, Compassionate Press has the perfect book for them!