In the La Crosse School District, a community art project is taking place involving over 6,000 students who are painting their idea of compassion on 6″x6″ panels. The project aspires to help teach the practice of compassion through the use of art and writing. These panels will be on display at the Pump House for the public to see – May 2nd through June 28th. I look forward to seeing them.
Many parents wonder what they can do to teach their young children to become compassionate people. I encourage them by saying compassion is “caught not taught”, when children are treated compassionately themselves, and observe compassion being modeled for them in their lives.
Every time we reach out to someone who needs our help – shoveling an elderly neighbor’s walk, bringing soup to a friend who is sick, inviting a new-to-the-community- family to join us for a holiday meal, passing on out-grown- clothing and toys to friends and others who can use them, holding doors for people, stopping at pedestrian walks to let walkers cross, being a respectful driver, offering assistance to someone in need, we are modeling and “teaching” compassion to our children.
Compassion grows through understanding emotions – our own and others. Parents can help children with this understanding by naming the feelings they and their child may be experiencing, talking about facial expressions on illustrations in books and pictures in magazines, (why do you think he’s looking like that?} and discussing how they think someone might be feeling in certain situations.
Notice children’s displays of compassion and remark on it – ” that was very kind of you to share your M&M’s when your sister dropped hers on the ground”. ” I noticed how generous you were in letting the little boy at the park who didn’t have anything to ride, use your big wheel today.” “Thanks for noticing that little girl was sad and helping her to look for her lost teddy bear.”
We see instances of compassion beginning very early. Toddlers, hearing another child cry will often look very concerned and even go to the child to offer comfort.
Recently in the children’s room at The Parenting Place, some children, ages two and three, were joyfully playing some little “game” they had come up with on their own. There were three or four of them and they were quickly going up the steps of our little slide, and whoosh! down the slide as fast as they could, and then waiting for the next child to come down, offering a helping hand to them before starting off again. All the while, they were chanting “Friends helping other friends, friends helping other friends”.
And that’s as good a starting point as ever – when it comes to teaching compassion – friends helping other friends.
On February 7th, La Crosse Play Shoppe’s first Friday outing will be to meet at Bethany St. Joseph’s Care Center to visit the residents there, hand out valentines and say hello. This is a perfect way to plant the seed of compassion in our children helping make the residents’ day a bit brighter, sharing our hearts with them. Join us.