Most experts will agree that fostering compassion in young people is one of the best ways to stop bullying at school and will also help prevent verbal, physical and emotional aggression from taking root. While it’s necessary to teach children to be assertive and confident, it’s equally important to teach them to be compassionate and empathetic. If your child has had any issues with bullying others or being bullied, seek help from a child psychiatrist right away. In addition, use these tips to help him or her develop compassion as a character trait.
1. Show compassion yourself. The best way to learn compassion is to be on the receiving end of it. When your child gets sick or hurt, offer plenty of tender loving care. If he or she makes a mistake, offer forgiveness. This will leave a lasting impact on your child.
2. Adopt a pet. Obviously, bringing a pet into your home is a huge responsibility. But caring for an animal provides valuable experience in fostering compassion. Children who take care of pets learn responsibility, empathy and unconditional love. Teaching your child to value living things may be worth the added work of animal ownership.
3. Talk the talk and walk the walk. Lead by example. When parents talk about acts of compassion, they should prize it as a family Talk about people who need our compassion, such as those who are sick or children living in poverty around the world. Point out examples of compassion in movies. And more importantly, walk the walk: practice acts of compassion yourself. Let your child see you helping others, forgiving others and giving back to your community.
4. Read books. Children’s books can be very beneficial for teaching compassion. Younger children can read simple books (examples of compassion are everywhere), while older children will benefit from books about Mother Theresa, Ghandi or the Bible. Start reading books about compassion to your child at a young age and encourage further reading as he or she gets older.
5. Volunteer as a family. This doesn’t have to be a huge commitment, but volunteering your time as a family is a great way to encourage compassion and empathy for others. Spend a weekend volunteering with an organization to clean up your local park. Visit nursing homes or children’s hospitals. Walk a charity walk together. Spending just one holiday serving meals at a homeless shelter will help your child feel blessed by what you have and compassionate towards others.
Some children are naturally gifted with an abundance of empathy. But even if yours isn’t, you can instill values and traits that will help compassion develop over time. If you need help, look into local behavioral health services. Compassionate children tend to become healthy, compassionate adults.