HomeHealth & BehaviorEmotional Well-Being

Teaching kids compassion

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By GreatSchools Staff

The spirit of the holidays

A giving tree

"There is a sharing tree in our little town," writes a mother in Washington. "Every year my son and I pick out two families that need help. It's fun hunting down the gifts on their wish lists and returning to the tree with our arms full of beautifully wrapped presents. I like the idea that we remain anonymous as that teaches the true magic of giving."

Adopt a family

"Each year during the holidays, we adopt a family," says a mother of two. "We try to find a family with children of similar ages to our own so when we all go shopping, our kids help by knowing what kids their age want."

Donate something new

"While shopping for the holidays," explains one mother, "my son and I pick out a brand-new toy for the Toys for Tots collection. And when I am at the grocery store, he reminds me to buy extra cans of soups and vegetables to bring to the local soup kitchen."

Make the most of giving

"We do a couple of things with our girls to try to teach them caring and compassion," writes a mother in Oregon. "We go Christmas caroling in the neighborhood and collect canned food for the city's food pantry. We drop money in every Salvation Army bucket we pass. And we shop for children of the same age as ours because 'their parents cannot afford to give them a special gift this year.' Other opportunities appear throughout the season, but these are the ones we deliberately plan to do."

Comments from readers

"These are sound suggestions, and I'm happy that my children and grandchildren already utilize many of them. Another fun way we model sharing by example - is by having a wardrobe swap. We "girls" gather for a pot luck of hors d'oeuvres, beverages and clothing. The children play and join us in trying on clothes we've all brought to swap. What is not pounced upon, or tentatively taken (to be recycled at the next such party, if it doesn't delight), is bagged up and given to the Goodwill or organizations that provide professional clothing for women in need, who are trying to get back into the work force and need appropriate wardrobe for job interviews. To pass on these items, that we "loved" but were just taking up space, lightens our loads and our hearts! "
"You may need to know before you go what things agencies do accept. Some homeless shelters do not provide food for their clients, but do have beds and a warm place, with an unaffiliated food kitchen closeby. Some centers who do feed folks have rules on what they receive and because of health restrictions cannot accept prepared food, but take ingredients which can be prepared in their kitchens by staff and volunteers. Here in Anchorage our food kitchen's clients especially appreciate contributed game meats and fish, tastes of home. One live-in shelter in town does feed its residents and accepts home-prepared foods. They also accept partial containers of cleaning products. Many places here do accept new and used clothing, especially outerwear, hats, gloves, socks. Our Native hospital accepts clothing for patients and families who fly in from the villages and need clothing to wear at the time of their release. They also appreciate reading material and supplies for activities pat! ients and families can do while here in town. The bottom line is to know what is needed and what can be accepted. Teach our kids to give with joy and respect. "
"This is precisely why we removed our children from what widely considered a fine public school and placed them in a nearby private school. Public schools, as their administrators and teachers are wont to exclaim at the mere mention of manners, are not required to teach the Golden Rule. Unkind and inconsiderate parents beget unkind inconsiderate children and public schools are not in place to correct bad parenting. We find that the private school, besides not being obsessed with teaching to score well on standardized tests, incorporate the importance of kindness, compassion, understanding and inclusion into its already strong curriculum. The tuition payments are certainly challenging, but we're confident we'll never regret sacrificing in order to provide them with an educational experience that reinforces the ideals and virtues we try to teach at home. "
"After reading some of the other parents ideas about teaching our children the meaning of giving it makes me realize how wonder these people are. If it was not for so many of these people my children would not have a good Christmas this year. We had to sign up for an adopt a family program this year because we are struggling. I was only able to buy one gift for each of my two children, but because of the program they will be able to recieve several gifts instead of only one. So my family would like to say thank you very much for giving and have a wonderful Merry Christmas. A family in need"