Empathy training begins young

Many parents have questions about instilling an attitude of caring in their children. When so much of a parent’s time revolves around caring for the needs of a child and making sure the child is happy, some children start to develop the attitude: “it’s all about me.”

Many parents have questions about instilling an attitude of caring in their children.

When so much of a parent’s time revolves around caring for the needs of a child and making sure the child is happy, some children start to develop the attitude: “it’s all about me.”

This can lead to the challenge of teaching a child to share and recognize the needs in others.

Bringing children to realize what is going on in their world, the fact that things are not as easy for some people as they are for us here, requires discernment on the parents’ part.

Children will inevitably hear and learn of situations that are difficult for others. Building empathy and an attitude of gratitude for what they have can start early.

At Christmas, there are many opportunities to give through various organizations, and these are great conversation starters. This is a chance to give during a season that so often focuses on “getting.” It will bring more meaning to the situation if the child is able to pick out the gift or food item themselves that they are giving.

While grocery shopping, let your child pick out a non-perishable food item themselves and put it in the donation bin. This involves him in a physical way, allows him to make a decision about what to give and opportunity for conversation about people’s basic needs and resources in the community.

Does your child know what happens to his clothing when he outgrow them and toys when they are given away? Perhaps you can involve him in such decisions.

When a child hears of a troubling event in the life of a classmate or neighbour, encourage him to create a card or picture, or help bake cookies to give to that person or family. The belief that a person makes a difference can begin at a young age.

Volunteering has become a much more common element of many junior and senior high schools. The experience and resulting effects of giving of time and energy to a person or project without expectation of being rewarded cannot be obtained by any other means. There are many volunteer opportunities available for teenagers today on a local and global scale. These experiences can be life changing.

Of course, the best way a child learns any skills and attitudes is from a good role model. Parents who model care and concern for others in their community and in the world communicate the caring message with the strongest impact.

Positive Parenting appears every week in LIFE. This week’s column was written by Laurie Whitaker, a home support manager with Family Services of Central Alberta. Whitaker can be reached by calling 403-343-6400 or www.fsca.ca.

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