One of my favorite commercials now is an Etsy commercial. In the commercial, a woman leaves her wallet at the grocery store. The young man that works at the store runs down the street to give it to her, and then proceeds to carry her groceries to the bus stop. The carrying of the groceries continues through the holidays, when the woman buys him handmade gloves from Etsy. Not going to lie, I pretty much tear up every single time I see it. The compassion that is shown between two strangers that become friends is just so powerful – it gets me every time.
Compassion means we care about other people. We treat them with kindness, and we have a feeling inside of us that compels us to help people in need. You can often see compassion when there are a few toddlers playing together. One toddler gets hurt or is sad and starts crying, and then the other toddlers are giving them their toys to make them feel better. Those toddlers can’t explain why they are doing it, but it’s the compassion inside of them.
Often, as kids get older, some of that compassion may fall away. But, as parents, we can help that sense of compassion stay, and even help it grow through our own actions.
Develop Compassion In Our Children
The biggest way we can help our children become compassionate people is to demonstrate compassion ourselves. Model compassion and kindness in our words, actions and in our thoughts. Offer comforting words to those in pain, help someone in need (like carrying their groceries), and treat others with respect, even if the respect is not reciprocated.
It’s also important to let our children know that how we treat others matters. It impacts their day and the interaction that you have can either brighten their day, or cause unhappiness. Help children to see that being a compassionate person can bring someone happiness.
On the flip side, it’s also important to not react to rudeness when we encounter it. If someone is rude to you in the store, for example, refrain from responding in a similar way. Instead offer kindness and compassion and talk to your child about the situation afterwards. Acknowledge that the person was rude and let them know that even if you are having a bad day, it is not okay to be unkind.
Explain to your children that compassion goes beyond actions, it involves words as well. Speaking kindly to people, and not using harsh tones are simple ways to demonstrate compassion. And remind children that if they happen to slip up, it’s okay to take a step back, apologize for being unkind, and turn things around. Even that simple act of apologizing is an act of compassion.
It’s also important to be compassionate to ourselves, which involves forgiveness, another important life lessons for children.
Teaching Children Forgiveness
On the surface, an act of forgiveness may seem like it is about the person that did the act that needs forgiving. While a sliver of forgiveness is about the other person, most of it has to do with the person doing the forgiving. And this can be a hard lesson for children to understand.
Teaching forgiveness means helping children understand that they aren’t forgetting about what happened, or even saying that what happened is okay. Instead, it’s an act of letting the action go. And you’re letting that action go because it doesn’t help you to hold onto the anger or sadness that you may feel because of the action. This is an important lesson, and it’s key for children to grasp the concept.
When an incident happens, encourage your child to talk about it with you. What happened, how did it make you feel, why do you think they said/did that? Have the conversation so that your child can express their feelings. Then, discuss how it would make them feel if they forgave that person, and let those feelings go. If this is a challenging topic, consider having your child write the feelings on a piece of paper, then crumpling up that paper and throwing it away. Or, if visualizing is a better path for your child, have them visualize the anger or sadness leaving them and floating away.
Conflict will happen in your child’s life and learning to forgive and let go of those negative feelings will help them continue to grow as a person, and not let that bitterness overcome them.
Unfortunately, our children will run into people in their life that have let the negativity get to them. People that we would consider toxic. They are the people that have a negative energy about them, and make you feel completely drained and tired when they are with you.
When our children encounter toxic people, it’s important for them to again show compassion to themselves and learn to let them go.
Letting Go Of Toxic People
The first step in letting go of toxic people, is to help your children understand that they deserve to live a happy and healthy life. And, if someone is keeping them from living that way, it is okay to distance yourself from them.
The second thing that needs to be conveyed to children is that toxic people typically do not change. Toxic people are often dealing with an internal struggle of some sort – they may not even know what they are dealing with. But that internal struggle is creating negative feelings and emotions, and then those feelings and emotions are projected onto others.
If your child is dealing with a toxic person, get ready to be patient, because they may not be ready to let go of that person yet. Listen to what they say and ask open-ended questions to help them further discuss the person, or the situation. This type of conversation can help your child begin to see the negativity that surrounds the other person. Also, consider asking questions like, “would you ever do that?”, “how did that make you feel?”, or “how do you think that person felt when she/he said that?”.
It may also be helpful to encourage your child to spend time with other friends that are not involved with the toxic person. Kids from the neighborhood, kids from their team or kids that they met through another activity. Being around other kids that are not toxic will help them see what healthy friendships are like.
Once your child is ready, let them know that walking away from a toxic person is okay. They are not abandoning their friend, rather they are making the decision to show themselves the compassion that they deserve. Let them know that it may take time to heal after walking away from a toxic person, but that they will in fact heal, and become a stronger person.
Compassion takes on many, many forms. And it’s important that we show compassion to others as well as ourselves. Children need to learn this early on and practice it throughout their lives.
We are continuing our life lessons next month, so be sure to check back, or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If you missed our previous articles, A Lesson In Responsibility, By Way Of A Pile Of Socks and Don’t Be Afraid To Fail, Or Tell The Truth, and Losing Gracefully And Being Kind Go Hand In Hand, check them out on the Intivix blog.