By Cara Johnson-Bader
Would you like to raise a compassionate child? If so, you are not alone. Fortunately, research tells us that kindness and empathy are qualities your child can learn. Practicing kindness gives children better mental and physical health, builds stronger relationships, and helps develop a higher sense of self-worth. These sure-fire tips will make caring for others (and our planet) an everyday habit in your family.
Pitch in. Helping with chores is your child’s first lesson in contributing to the common good. Doing chores teaches kindness, responsibility, teamwork, independence, and respect. Research says that children who begin helping early (by age 3 or 4) are more likely to be successful as adults.
Tidy your neighborhood. Let your child see you caring for your surroundings. Carry a small trash bag on your neighborhood walks. Move leaves and debris away from storm sewers to keep water moving during storms. When hiking, leave wilderness spots cleaner than how you found them. Talk often about the importance of caring for the planet.
Spread good cheer. Lots of people are isolated and lonely right now. Spread cheer by creating “happy” mail for seniors, hospitalized children, Meals on Wheels recipients, our troops, and others.
Share with others. Host a kindness cleanup. Many people would benefit from receiving things that you no longer use. Talk to your child about the importance of giving to others, and encourage your child to donate any books, toys, clothes, sports equipment, or other materials they no longer use.
Read books about kindness and compassion. Read books about kindness and compassion with your child, and use reflection questions to deepen your child’s understanding to create a truly meaningful experience. Here are a few of our favorite books and reflection questions to encourage meaningful conversations about kindness and compassion.
• Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth – How does sharing and giving change a community?
• Thank you, Omu! by Oge Mora – Can you think of three people you would like to write a thank you letter to? Who are they and what would you say? If you have time, write those letters!
• Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud – How can you spot an empty bucket? And what can you do to fill it up?
• The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood – Can you name three things that you are grateful for or three things that made you smile?
• I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children by Marian Wright Edelman – How would you know if someone was having a bad day and may need a little extra kindness?
Cara Johnson-Bader is the Vice President of Marketing and Parent Experiences at New Horizon Academy and mother of two young boys. Learn more about New Horizon Academy at newhorizonacademy.net.