It is that time of year when we are all in our feelings and the spirit of giving is strong. This is the perfect time to nurture empathy in children. Empathy is a trait in modern society that many people seem to be lacking. Popular memes like, “I don’t know how to tell you that you should care for other people,” continue to make its rounds on social media. Raising children who care about others is essential and we need them in the world to make it a better place for all. Here are a few suggestions on how to instill this important caring trait in young children and teens.
“To whom much is given, from him much is expected.”
SECRET SANTA Pick one person in your neighborhood and let your child choose a gift for them. It can be the lady down the street, the crossing guard at the school, the bagger in the grocery store. A few weeks before, ask your child to observe and pick a person to be their secret Santa.
TOY PURGE As your child prepares for the arrival of Santa, have them clean out their toy box and create a pile of toys they have outgrown or no longer play with to donate. Put them into a box marked, “Santa” and take them to your local charity with your child.
MAKE A PLATE Holiday dinners are a great time for families to come together. Explain to your child that many people and children in your own neighborhood are not so lucky this year. Find an older person who will appreciate a plate of homemade food, then make and take a plate to them this holiday. Even better, if you know them well enough, invite them to dinner.
THANK YOU CARDS Think about this. How many people receive thank you cards for giving Christmas gifts? Exactly! What a wonderful surprise it will be for the gift-giver to receive a thank you card for giving your child a Christmas gift.
HOMEMADE PRESENTS Kwanzaa is all about making homemade gifts. Create a bunch of handmade presents and take them to a nursing home the day after Christmas. Many of the residents will appreciate the visit even more than the gift. It is also an opportunity to teach others about Kwanzaa.
These are just a few ideas to nurture empathy in children. Make these activities an annual tradition but take many opportunities throughout the year to care for others. Doing these things will help to ensure that your children grow up not only to be great people but to be good citizens as well.