Now more than ever, it feels important to raise our children with empathy, compassion and respect for others. We are all born with a natural aptitude towards empathy, but how do we nurture compassion and teach our children how to use it in the wider world?
Our children's Zen Den series of videos help to share ideas of mindfulness and empathy for children in simple ways they can make sense of. With a little help from them, here are 5 ways to help raise a compassionate child…
1. Nurture Listening Skills
For young children, consciously using listening skills can be very difficult. Listening itself is an active process rather than a passive one, so teaching kids this value skill from a young age will not only help them in school but also show them the importance of listening to others. As we all know, with young children this can be easier said than done, but we’ve created a simple activity introducing the concept of listening and challenging kids to use their listening skills until they hit super-power levels!
2. Encourage Helping at Home
When we could often get the job done in a fraction of the time, giving chores at home can be tempting to skip, but tasks around the house even for young children can teach them about being part of a community. Having a small job to complete not only shows our kids about the importance of contributing and helping others, but also gives them a sense of achievement when they’ve finished. If you needed any more persuading to get a helping hand with putting the toys away or doing the washing up, there you have it!
3. Promote Sharing
The concept of sharing isn’t always easy for the tiny people in our lives. To start with it can be upsetting and confusing - why should they play with the toy when it’s mine?! But as a child starts to share, they’re also learning a whole range of social skills, from tolerance and understanding to patience with others. All of these skills go towards building their world outwards, helping develop their empathy and compassion for other people. This video helps children think about the temptation to say, 'mine!' and what to do when they feel themselves not wanting to share.
4. Recognise Challenging Feelings
Feelings like frustration and upset can be unsettling even for adults to reckon with, but while we are well equipped to recognise emotions like this, children must learn how to deal with these challenging feelings. It can be tricky for children to understand concepts like ‘fight or flight’ or know how to react to their feelings in stressful situations, which is why we created this mindfulness video, called ‘The Owl and the Guard Dog’. This Zen Den exercise introduces children to some mindfulness techniques that will help them understand and deal with challenging situations and feelings.
5. Understand the Behaviour of Others
Teaching children why some people might behave negatively can help them consider how this person might be feeling, even in the most difficult of situations. Having this understanding can help shape the child’s reaction to it, encouraging them to diffuse the situation rather than react to it. Our Zen Den episode ‘The Mean Bug’ explains to children the idea of dealing with negativity, encouraging them to think about why children might be mean sometimes and how they can stop passing on the ‘mean bug’ to others.
Do you find anything else works well with teaching children about compassion, empathy and understanding? We'd love to hear your thoughts!