Raising Compassionate Kids

My youngest daughter came home from school the other day feeling sad for a little boy in her class. His cat had died before he came to school that day.

"Mom, he talked about that cat every day. He played with it every day after school. It could even play baseball," she said.

Now, it's not surprising to me that my daughter would be concerned about one of her classmates or upset that another person's pet had died. I know we would all be devastated if anything happened to our dog.

What was surprising was how deeply this little boy's pet tragedy affected her. You see, she doesn't really get along all that well with this little boy. Usually, her re-telling of her day includes at least one thing that this boy did that annoyed her.

However, when this little boy was feeling awful about his cat dying, my daughter was able to set aside all the ways he annoys her and offer him her compassion.

Compassion is simply recognizing someone else's hurt and doing something about it. We want to raise kids who can recognize when someone else is hurting. We want them to want to do something to help a hurting person.

Our natural inclination is to protect our kids from knowing that bad things happen in the world. When our kids are toddlers or preschoolers, that's not a bad idea. As they get older, though, they need to know that the world isn't always a bright and shiny place. Bad stuff happens -- to us and to others. It's how we deal with that stuff that sets us apart as Christ followers.

When hard stuff happens to the people around us, we want to recognize it and treat those people with compassion. We want our kids to know how to offer words of encouragement and how to judge those moments when its better to just be silent and offer a shoulder to cry on.

Everyone needs a friend in times of crisis -- whether that person is our bosom buddy or someone that we might not normally like. Compassion sometimes means setting aside our personal feelings about someone to offer them what they need in the midst of their crisis.

Teach your kids to recognize the hurting people in their lives and help them take steps to offer compassion.

  • Help your child look at the entire situation. Sometimes people lash out at others when they are hurting. When that happens to your child, talk with them about why the other person may have acted the way they did. Help your child look past her own feelings to understand the feelings of the other person.
  • Brainstorm ways to help. Your child can make a difference by showing compassion to others. Help your child decide on a way to help their hurting friend. It can be a simple word of encouragement, a gift or just spending time with the other child.
  • Don't hide the tough stuff. If your child catches a glimpse of the news talking about an earthquake or other disaster, don't pretend it's not a big deal. Be honest in answering his questions. Talk about ways we can help those who were affected. We can pray for them, send money or send supplies. Finding a way to help others makes your child a part of the solution and gives them power over a scary situation.

God wants us to show compassion to others. Ephesians 4:32 says "Be kind and compassionate to one another."

Showing compassion to others doesn't take much time or money. It simply takes paying attention to the people around us.