Our children see and hear a lot of sad situations in school, on the tv, even online. We try and protect our kids from the pain and suffering in the world, but seeing the images of flood victims, devastating wildfires or a homeless person on the side of the road can provide a teaching opportunity for parents .
Empathy is one of the most important skills we can teach our children. Try some of these tips for making a lasting impression on your kids.
- What do you do?
How do you deal with the homeless person asking for money? What are your reactions to the negative images on the news? Our kids are constantly watching us, they hear what we say and absorb the way we treat others. Be aware of your actions, I promise your kids repeat what they see their parents do or say, for better or for worse!
About 8 years ago, we were on vacation in Mexico. I was walking with my son through town. He wanted to use his money to buy some candy at a store. On that walk we encountered a young boy who was barefoot. My son let go of my hand, walked over and gave that young boy his money. I didn’t prompt him do this, in fact I was kind of shocked. My son gave his money because giving to that young boy felt better than buying candy for himself. When you model that empathetic behavior enough times, your kids will instinctively do it on their own.
- Give Back
Involve your children in giving back. There are many children who have lost every single belonging, toy, stuffed animal and electronic device in the flood that just hit Texas. If you are considering giving some support to those victims, ask your kids for suggestions. Let them be part of the entire process, buying non-perishable food, diapers, toys, packing them up, sending them to Texas. This is just one example. Several years ago, when my kids were younger, all of the neighborhood kids made shoe boxes to send to a third world country. We shopped for toys to fill the boxes, wrapped the boxes and delivered them to a truck that would take the boxes to children in need. Doing this together made a lasting impression, and provided some young children across the worldwith smiles when they opened their boxes:)
Do some research and decide the best way to give back. Your kids will remember the feeling of giving to others and want to do it more often!
- Talk about it
You know your kid best. Be thoughtful about allowing your children to see or hear about tragic events. It can be overwhelming for children. Talking with your kids is crucial. Ask how they feel about the situation. Encourage them to feel empathy for others, then suggest they move on. No need to dwell. Tragic situations are heavy. So make sure you keep it real and keep it light when discussing with your kiddos.
Thank you so much for teaching your children the values that make this world a better place. You are the best teacher your children will ever have, so keep being AMAZING at it!