Friday, February 27, 2015

Nurturing Compassion in Young Children

For several nights my youngest guy has been having trouble sleeping. He comes out of his room eyes red and brimming with tears. Each night there is a different hardship weighing on his heart. Tonight he can not sleep because he is worried about the children he saw starving on a commercial for Save the Children. 

Suffering as a part of life is something that adults have just learned to accept. We walk past homeless people without a second glance. We turn away from stray animals and change the news channel when we see yet another world disaster. We have become indifferent to the plight of others and this indifference allows the suffering to continue. 

Nothing I have seen has tugged at my heart and made me want to change the world into a better place like the tears I saw in my baby's eyes. These last several nights has had me face some hard truths. Life is not fair for everyone and more than that I can actually change that and yet I have not done all that I can. Looking at my son and explaining those commercials made me face my own actions or lack there of.  

I saw in his eyes a sort of defeat that I could not endure. That look drove me to change the narrative. He and I discussed the problems AND ways that we could help. I always want my children to feel  empowered, to know that their one life has value and is not in vain. We discussed volunteering, charity, and the importance of empathy. 

My husband and I have always given monthly to Save the Children so I discussed this with him. We talked about leading by example, and the importance of sharing our actions with others so they can be inspired to do the same. 

We came up with a list of things he personally could do. Because our family gives to Save the Children,  he chose to invest in where he gave a loan to a family that was starting a coffee farm.  He is thinking of doing a fundraiser and enlisting the help of friends and family. 

This topic of compassion and empathy is one we revisit often. The older boys and I have been involved in fundraising and donating. However, none of them seemed as affected by the suffering of others as much as my youngest. I admire his compassion and I don't want to harden his heart by teaching him to ignore what he sees. I want him to always feel sad when he sees someone in need, but at the same time I want him to also be aware of his potential to improve the situation.

If you have a sensitive child don't  be afraid to discuss hard topics. Try not to avoid suffering and sadness because you don't want them to be ignorant or indifferent. Nurture their compassion and help them find ways to do something. 

Our family donates regularly to:
Save the Children
Plan International 
Abriendo Mentes
And we are involved with 
These are just the few that we are passionate about, but there is an exhaustive list of organizations that would suit your family and your interest. 

If you want something more hands on some great simple ways to give back are volunteering at or donating to Food Banks, Homeless Shelters, or animal shelters. 

If you are financially able another idea is to buy several $5-10 gift cards to a fast food place or cafe and then pass them out to homeless people you might see. 

We nurture our kids' compassion by being compassionate ourselves. Conquer your fear of insignificance and show your children that each of us acting together can make a big impact. 

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