We all hope to see our grandchildren grow up to be happy, healthy, productive and compassionate adults. The part about compassion becomes a huge challenge in today’s world where media frequently spews out negativity and prods us to criticise others.
Compassion involves two traits – the ability to empathize with what others are feeling, and the desire to do something to make things better. When it comes to teaching compassion, today’s parents need all the help they can get.
Here’s where you come in. Grandparents play an enormous role in helping children grow.
Children are a lot more apt to remember what we do rather than what we say. When we demonstrate compassion to strangers, as well as to people within our own families, children follow our example.
Watch for everyday opportunities to help other people. You don’t need to plan something extravagant. Even little acts of kindness can brighten someone’s day and leave a lasting impression on a child.
Make compassion an expectation when grandchildren visit your home. Be clear about what is acceptable behavior, and be consistent with appropriate consequences. When a child breaks a rule, talk about how it affects other people and discuss alternative actions.
Your grandchildren are also watching how you treat each other as a couple and how you treat their parents. Every extended family experiences conflict, but we need to show our grandchildren that we’re able to work things out in a positive, healthy manner.
When you’re out and about with your grandchildren, and you see someone showing compassion, be sure to point it out. Encourage your grandchildren to watch for examples, too. You can even turn this into a game!
Be sure to offer positive feedback when you observe your grandchildren showing compassion. Doesn’t it give you a warm and wonderful feeling when you see that the lessons you’ve taught are making a difference?
In a recent blog post about volunteering, I pointed out the many benefits of serving others as a family. Volunteering at a nursing home, soup kitchen or animal shelter offers an opportunity to spend quality time together while learning important lessons.
Seeing the challenges and needs of others helps children look outside themselves. They also feel the satisfaction of knowing that they can truly make a difference in the lives of other people.
There are lots of excellent books you can read with your grandchildren that teach important traits like compassion, kindness and empathy. Make use of search engines to find book descriptions and reviews as a guideline.
It’s a bit more difficult with movies or television. However, they also provide valuable lessons. When you watch a program together, point out both good and bad examples of how people treat each other.
Talk about scenes and ask questions: How do you think the character felt when they were treated that way? How could they have handled it differently? Have you ever been in a situation like that?
When we refer to ourselves in a critical or judgmental manner, it teaches our grandchildren that we’re not worthy of compassion. It’s important to be kind to yourself.
When you make a mistake, avoid beating yourself up. Admit it, learn from it, then forgive yourself – or ask for forgiveness if necessary – and move on.
Avoid perpetuating ageism. It’s okay to talk about the challenges that come with growing older. But when we complain or joke about aging in a derogatory manner, it tells children that older people don’t deserve compassion.
Show your grandchildren that you’re able to embrace the changes that come with aging, and focus on the strengths you’ve gained over the years.
We’ve all heard this quote: “It takes a village to raise a child.” This certainly is true when it comes to teaching children to understand the feelings of others, and to develop a desire to make things better.
Grandparents, never underestimate your role in growing the next generation of compassionate adults!
What role should grandparents play in grandchildren’s lives? Can we make them more compassionate? I would love to read how you help teach your grandchildren to show compassion. Please share in the comments below.