Children learn best through example, so use real-life experiences as “teachable moments”, to illustrate the point you are trying to make. And of course, the best example for your child is your own behaviour.
Here are four scenarios you could use to teach your children empathy and unlock their inner kindness.
Always show kindness to homeless people
Whether an individual is asking for a handout at a traffic light or guarding your car while you are at the shops, always treat them with respect – even if you aren’t going to give them money. Explain to your children that not everyone has a job that earns them money, and that the small contribution that you are making helps them to eat.
You can take this a step further with your children by creating awareness of the practicalities of these needs, as well as making a difference – for example, participate in blanket drives in winter, deliver toys to a children’s home on Mandela Day or sometimes buy food for car guards rather than giving them money.
Explain disability with kindness and insight
If there is someone in your life who has a disability, you can contextualise other disabilities using that example. Explain to your child the difficulties that person is faced with – whether it’s driving, reaching certain objects, seeing clearly or hearing. But also be sure to highlight how the person is overcoming their disability, so that sympathy does not turn to pity.
It is also very important to help your child to understand why it isn’t kind to discuss visible disabilities within the person’s hearing. Explain that people with disabilities want to be seen for who they are, so it’s best not to comment on what is very noticeable to your child.
Be understanding to other children with learning or speech disabilities
Hopefully, your child will have the opportunity to encounter many kids at their schools or in their neighbourhoods. Some of these children will be strong and clever, and others may be battling with difficulties that make it harder for them to fit in.
Again, it’s important to help your child to understand what these children’s life experiences are like, so try saying things such as, “Imagine what it must be like to want to talk to another child to make friends, but your words don’t come out clearly.” When it comes to other children, it is vital that you never allow your child to tease or laugh about those with disabilities or learning difficulties.
Friends with less
If you know children who live in smaller homes or whose parents drive less smart cars, simply explain that things cost money and that different people have different jobs, and that some of those jobs earn less money.
Teach your children that it’s who you are that matters, not what you have – and be sure to drill into them that they mustn’t express judgement or even surprise when people don’t have the same privileges or luxuries that they do.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.