I honestly can’t believe how fast the boys are growing. If you couldn’t tell by now, I really value the importance of teaching them manners and kindness. Yet lately it’s been hitting me that it might be time to start teaching them hands-on how important it is to be aware and compassionate outside of themselves with a deeper level of empathy. I know I covered this in the finance article a bit ago, but I feel that most of the classes in modern school systems are almost entirely focused on the classic subjects that we were all taught as kids (with a much heavier emphasis on technology, however). This leaves little time for the kids to learn about vital life skills, including one that I truly believe can have a lifelong impact: empathy.
Almost all of childhood is entirely self-centered. Most kids spend their early years completely caught up in filling their immediate needs like eating, drinking and sleeping. Starting early and teaching them how to step outside themselves, putting them outside of their comfort zones, could ultimately make them better people in the long run.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said: “Life’s most persistent question is: What are you doing for others?” With MLK day just around the corner (January 18), I think this concept is as relevant as ever, so I did a bit of research and came up with a few ways that I believe we can all use to teach our kids about compassion.
Care Kits for the Homeless
The first idea I want to share with you is incredibly easy and will put a smile on the faces of everyone involved. I watched a video about travel-sized care kits for the homeless and couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of something like this before.
Basically, you’ll be putting basic everyday toiletries and accessories in a large tube sock. I’ve seen ideas like this before with much more items in a backpack (which is awesome), but this way it’s small enough that you can literally store it in your glove box if you happen upon someone in need with the kids.
Take the kids to the store and head to the toiletries aisle. As you grab things like sunscreen, deodorant, toothpaste, wet wipes, etc… explain to them the importance of each item, and ask how they would feel if they didn’t have access to things like these on a daily basis. I’m sure, rightfully so, it’s never even crossed their little minds to think this way.
Start by putting the second sock into the other one and stuff it to the bottom. Explain to the kids the importance of giving clean socks to those in need, since most of them don’t have access to regular laundry services. We all know how stinky laundry can get in just ONE DAY!
Put the rest of the items in the sock(s) and you could even have the kids write a letter explaining that everyone deserves the things in the socks and how much it can be taken for granted.
Seeing the smile on the kids’ faces when they hand these care package socks to someone who really needs them is an excellent way to teach the kids compassion and love.
Praise the Positivity
This one is really simple, yet effective. Just about every kid growing up has a favorite super hero or character in a cartoon or TV show. Make a point to recognize this and tell them why people think that specific character is so great. Helping people and coming to the rescue even when things look like they’re about to take a turn for the worst are prime examples of compassion and putting yourself before others.
There are also many kids shows that focus on teamwork and consideration. Be sure to do some research on this end, as a lot of them show awesome real-life scenarios that reinforce teamwork and teach important lessons about decision making.
Even being sure to point out when someone does a good deed at the store or when you’re with them in public will show how being kind will go a long way.
Just Talk to Them
This is by far the simplest and most hands-on way to really engage with your kids about important life lessons. A site that I came across suggested sitting down with them and having a ‘heart to heart’. I know, this may sound a little over the top, but I promise it can be done in a non cheesy way. Sit them down in a comfortable and casual setting and have them tell you about their feelings. I actually make this a (mostly) daily habit when L walks in the door from school and we have a snack together. It’s just a quick, ‘what was funny today’ ‘what was sad today’ ‘what was happy today’ recap. It’s always so interesting, and often times hilarious, to hear his answers.
By doing this, you can really start to get a feel about what actually makes them tick, and even offer up methods of relaxation that they can use when they are flustered or upset. Reminding them (and let’s be honest, ourselves) that taking deep breath can work wonders.
It won’t be long until L and B are off with their friends constantly (I’m already feeling it with L), and it won’t be ‘cool’ to hang with mom, so I’m hoping some of the groundwork to show compassion, empathy, and to understand their own and others feelings has been laid. Praying it will stick with them as they continue to grow and make choices independent of mom.
Here’s to raising kind kids!