Teaching kids compassion

Show children the value of empathy by volunteering as a family, donating old toys, or trying any of these reader-tested solutions.

By GreatSchools Staff

We asked other parents to share their ideas for encouraging compassion and generosity. Here are some of their suggestions:

Ways to give

Donate the old

"After every season, I take my son into his room and we weed out all of the clothing and shoes that he has either grown out of or has in excess, and we fill a box for the needy. We then shift over into his toy area and sift through to 'make room' for birthday gifts or Santa's delivery. Sometimes he cries because it can be hard to give away things that carry memories," one mother explains. "But we always talk about the fact that not all kids have toys and clothes, and how lucky we are to have what we have."

Feed the hungry

"Every month, my children help me bake a casserole to drop off at the local homeless shelter," writes a mother of two in New Jersey. "They ask me questions about homelessness, and I try my best to explain why these people don't have what we have. When they help me carry the food to the shelter, I think it shows why we're doing this. It just feels right to feed the hungry."

Share the wealth

"Instead of presents we have decided to view the birthdays in our family as a gift to share our blessings with others. So we have a big party, invite all of our friends and ask them for a donation to our favorite charity. If you need an idea, go to your local library - they will help you find a charity that fits your family," advises one mother in Texas. "We give our boys a gift first thing in the morning, so they are not without presents on their birthday. And after the party, when we deliver the donations, they get to appreciate the joy of giving."

Write notes of compassion

"I have taught my grandchildren to appreciate an encouraging note from friends," says a grandma and guardian of two. "I will gather my friends to help us prepare 'goodie bags' for homeless people. These bags consists of an encouraging note, some fruit or candy, and sometimes a couple of dollars. We also provide a small pillow (made with love and care) and some of our old but lightly used blankets and outerwear (hats, sweaters, coats and scarves). Our children need to know the importance of sharing and caring, because it's not a guarantee that we will always be financially able to sustain our present lifestyle."

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."