Five Ways to Nurture Compassion in Kids

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2. Live each conversation beyond your words. Do more than have conversations about being compassionate with your child, look for ways to act compassionately at home and in your community. Explain to your child what you are doing and why so that your child hears what you are thinking and brings a compassionate perspective to their own thought process.

3. Look for role models and examples of compassion in your own community. Seek out examples of individuals and groups in your community that are working to make your community a better place. Point these activities out to your child and talk to them about the needs and challenges faced by your community as well as what others are doing to be helpers.

4. Recognize that building compassion takes time. Just like any set of skills, building compassion takes time and lots of practice. You may feel discouraged at times when you see your own child acting out or struggling to think about someone else’s feelings, but this is normal. Developing compassion is a lifelong process that is easier for some people than others, and one that is challenging for everyone.

5. Learn from your child along the way. As you and your child find your voices together, take time to listen to and learn from one another. You may be surprised by the insights your child offers. Your child might think about other people’s feelings in ways that you may not consider. When you learn something new from your child, let them know that. With all the ways they learn from you, they will love hearing that you learn from them, too!

Shauna Tominey, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Practice and Parenting Education Specialist at Oregon State University. She currently serves as the Principal Investigator for the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative, an initiative to provide high-quality parenting education. Previously, Dr. Tominey served as the Director of Early Childhood Programming and Teacher Education at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

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