Do you ever wonder how to get your kids to develop a heart of compassion? It doesn’t happen with lectures and stories. It happens when you show your child how to roll up your sleeves and dive right in—meeting needs where you are with what you’ve got.
When it comes to compassion, children learn by doing. And the coolest thing about compassion? It is actually more fun! Results are in and studies have shown that it’s more fun to give than to receive. Yep, it’s true.
There is lasting satisfaction and joy as a result of getting involved in charity work. So forget about giving your child a smile with a trip to the toy store. You’ll get a lot more than a smile with a trip to your local charity. Check out these ways to get involved:
Preschoolers: Compassion starts early. Look for teachable moments with this crowd. Even the youngest of children can learn to give some of their toys away to others. But here’s the deal—let them see where they are going. Gather up toys and visit your local women and children’s shelter to donate them personally. This may just inspire your child to give away even more! Teachable moments can often occur when you least expect it—a homeless pet who needs shelter, a child at the park who doesn’t have a friend, trash at the picnic area that needs to be picked up. Use these moments to create a heart that is looking for ways to make the world a better place and get involved.
Elementary School Set: These kids are capable of so much! Keep up the teachable moments, but also look for ways to get involved in your local community. Many clubs and organizations sponsor trash pick-ups or clothing and food drives. Use these to inspire a charitable spirit in your child. But don’t forget about the needs that are right down the street. Perhaps your child can be the one responsible for making a sandwich for the homeless man that sits on the same corner every day. This is the age when you are teaching your child to become aware of needs and be a part of the solution.
Middle Schoolers: By now, this age knows needs when they pop up. The difficult thing is to go against the grain and let your spirit shine. The best way to get involved is in the form of groups. Perhaps you can encourage your child to get his friends together and get involved in an organized charity event. Going door-to-door collecting canned foods may sound a bit on the boring side, but if you’ve got all your pals doing it, it turns into a party. Sometimes, at this age, mom or dad needs to take the helm and be sure that compassion is taking precedence over peer pressure.
High Schoolers: These kids are independent and know what they want to do. Hopefully, by now you have helped instill a spirit of compassion that is free to get involved on a more personal level. Find out what your high schooler is interested in and help her find the right outlet. One teen may want to help out at the Special Olympics while another one would rather spend a Saturday building houses for Habitat for Humanity. This stage is that delicate step into adulthood when they are taking their compassion into a hurting world and making a difference.
The most important thing about teaching compassion is that more is caught than taught. Children will learn what they see their parents do, not what they hear them say. If you are going to instill a charitable spirit in your child, it’s got to start with you. Look for ways to get involved today!