Cultivating Compassion in Children


The lectionary Gospel reading for Sunday 11 July (Luke 10:25-37) included the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  The parable gives an illustration of compassionate love that reaches out to someone in need, whoever they are.  This short “ParentWord” piece on cultivating compassion in children is excerpted from the Taking Faith Home materials for this week.

Having compassion means identifying with and being concerned about other’s feelings and needs. It makes us aware of the suffering of others, and allows us to empathize with them or to feel their suffering as our own.  Promoting a sense of compassion in our children helps to guide their actions and behaviors in positive ways. 

Firstly, we do so by helping our children to think about how others feel. For example, if your child says or does something hurtful to another child, help them focus their attention on the other’s feelings e.g. ask “How do you think they feel? Would you like to feel like that?” 

Second, we can help children develop compassion by encouraging acts of caring and kindness towards others.   Involve your children in showing care toward others, such as doing errands for sick neighbors or opening doors for others.

Third, we can promote compassion by teaching our children to be open to differences they see in others (e.g. people of different cultures or backgrounds), to give others the benefit of the doubt, and to explain the actions of others in the kindest ways.

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