Our country seems to be in chaos lately with two hurricanes making landfall and leaving devastation and destruction in their path. Thousands of families lives turned upside down, immeasurable damages to entire communities, homes lost, lives lost, hope lost. I have spent a large amount of time in these last few weeks trying to put myself in the shoes of these victims in hopes that I will be able to understand what they are going through, but the truth is that there is no way to TRULY understand it unless you have lived it.
With that being said, I believe that empathy is the absolute most important life skill that any human can have. The ability to care deeply for other human beings is the root of all that is good in the world. However, in the wake of these tragedies I unfortunately found myself subconsciously sheltering my 2 1/2 year old twins from the news of it all. Why?! Was I trying to save them from the heartache? Did I think they were too little? They wouldn’t understand? The truth is, I was doing them a disservice by NOT telling them. I was failing at my promise to them that I would always do what is best for them, I was forgetting my promise to God that I would train them up in the way that they should go. It is NEVER to early to teach children to love others. Do not underestimate the innocent and loving heart of a child. They will absolutely surprise you.
After explaining to them as well as I could, I had the indescribable honor of taking them to donate items for the first time in their little lives. Though we did not have much to give, I believe that they left our church truly understanding that the diapers, bottles and formula that we donated were going to families that needed them more than we did. Though this was a small lesson in empathy, I am blessed with the job of teaching them these lessons for the rest of their lives. Check out the video of our donation below!
Teaching Compassion and Empathy to Young Children:
- There is no such thing as “too young”
- Communicate using words that they can understand
- Discuss different types of feelings regularly with your child- Teach and practice “feelings vocabulary”
- Use the aide of videos and pictures whenever it may be helpful
- If appropriate, allow them to watch the news with you as you explain what is happening. Use current events to spark important conversations
- Set the example- Let them see you modeling compassion and empathy!
- Make it a priority and set high expectations
- Provide opportunities to practice- Allow them an active and age appropriate role in donations/tithes/volunteering- Even if it is a monetary donation online, use it as a teaching opportunity- Involve them!
- Recognize and celebrate compassionate behavior- (Even something as simple as holding open a door for a stranger!)
- NEVER STOP TEACHING! This is not a quick and easy lesson, it must be constant and consistent