It is back-to-school time!! As a mom, I find this time of year to be a test of my emotions. It is a time of liberation with starting a new chapter, but it is also a time for me to have this odd sense of un-easiness. It happens every single year. The dog-days of summer are over and the early rising and homework schedules resume. I find myself so emotional watching my oldest get on the bus and hoping that the part of the wing let free at that moment comes to full span as she climbs aboard the bus all smiles. Compassion is the word that comes immediately to mind. I hope that she uses what she is taught and exemplified at home to show compassion and others do the same for her.
Although we don’t want it to be true, the truth of the matter is that kids can be mean. For the patients we work with, some have severe communication needs while others have mild impairments. Some of these kids face the challenges of peers pointing out their communication issues in a negative way. Love, care, respect, tolerance, and compassion are taught and learned through example by the people a child spends time with.
Parent Map has a wonderful piece dedicated to the topic of compassion in this month’s issue of the magazine Kids-Compassion-Empathy. I found it so insightful and wanted to pass on. Compassion starts from the roots. We all just want to be accepted. We are humanity.
I wanted to share ways in which my family practices compassion and perhaps you can use some of the ideas with your own family. These ideas can be incorporated with all ages. My children are currently ages 4 and 8 years, but we started these by the time both were 2 years old.
- A spend, save, and share piggy bank: Each of the kids has one of these banks in their room. Each one picks a charitable organization to ‘share’ part of their allowance with (remember, some companies 100% match so your kiddos’ money could get doubled). We pick a date each year that we go ahead and make the donation. Note: If you pick a local organization, do not just have your child give you the money and you write the check. Instead, go take the money together so your child can see right where their money is going. In addition to the organization donation, when our school-aged child has class field trips or class activities which require a small fee we have her take enough money out of her ‘share’ portion to cover the cost of one student in her class/grade that can’t afford to pay. Although our child has no idea who the student is she helped, she knows she helped a classmate.
- Pay-it-forward: About one time per month, I pay for coffee for the person behind me in the drive-thru. I only do this sort of thing when both of my kids are in the car so they see the model. Vey nice teachable moment.
- Birthday Gift Shopping: When we are shopping for a friend’s birthday present (I always bring my kids with on birthday gift shopping trips), there will be nothing bought for my kids. I make a point to let them know that although they are special kids too, it is not their special day and they need to focus on who we are shopping for, not on themselves.
- Food Banks: Both my children pick 1-2 items every week from our pantry or from the reduced priced section of the grocery store and donate to a local food bank. My kids and I go together to the food banks and go on the day of distribution so they can see all the people appreciative of the food we bring.
- Pet Care: If you own a pet and your child is old enough, give him/her the responsibility of feeding, petting, brushing and/or walking the pet. This gives the child a sense of nurturing. Our eight year old does these things and really enjoys it. Now she has a very special love for animals and helping them.
- Special Olympics: This is one we are planning on doing soon… volunteering/attending the Special Olympics to lend a helping hand and cheer on the participants. This is a great place for teaching diversity and tolerance.
- Animal Shelter: We have not done this one yet either, but it is on our list to do as well. We plan to go to the local animal shelter and help walk, feed, and pet the animals.
- Simple gestures: A smile, please, thank you, holding doors open, picking something up that a person has dropped etc. are all very nice ways to show care and compassion.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~ Ghandi