Children watch and learn from the important people in their lives. Given recent events in our country, and throughout the world, it is more important than ever that we raise children who are empathetic and practice compassion every day.
As a teacher, I see examples every day where I wish a student acted more compassionately. Can I teach a child how to be empathetic? Isn’t compassion something that can best be learned through life experience, not direct instruction?
The answer is a resounding YES! Compassion can be taught, but it is up to all of the adults in your child’s life to show them how to act with empathy!
Every year I read the book Wonder to my class, which really makes you understand how it feels to be judged and bullied for something totally out of your control. And the book serves as a good touch point throughout the year. When a child acts thoughtlessly, I bring up characters and situations from the book to help them understand how they should have behaved.
Research shows that empathetic behavior can be learned throughout your life. This means that our job, as role models for our children, is to:
1) Walk the talk – show compassion in your everyday actions
2) Outlaw name-calling
3) Give consequences for poor behavior
4) Use manners – please, thank you, hold doors
5) Be understanding of other’s mistakes
6) Recognize kindness
For our compassion project this year, fourth grade is undertaking a holiday sale to benefit the Hesed House in Aurora. The Hesed House is a place that houses and feeds homeless families. We are raising money for important items needed by these families: socks, shoes, diapers, cold weather clothes, and the like. In the spring, we will hold a “make sale” where we make items to sell in order to supply one family from Hesed House with a “move out” box, which can be used when the family is able to leave the shelter and move into their own place.
The only way our kids can learn how to behave with compassion is if we show them by example each and every day!