Compassion is the ability to understand another person's suffering and the desire to alleviate it. Grade school kids have many opportunities to show and experience compassion during everyday activities in the classroom, lunchroom or recess. They can also benefit from specific activities that help them develop and practice compassion with each other. Since children come from different backgrounds, classroom compassion activities may be a helpful supplement to what they learn at home.
Talk about what compassion is and how to show it to others. Spend some time during the day just on the topic of compassion and be ready to talk about it if a situation arises that asks for or requires compassion. Many kids have experienced compassion and display it without formal instruction. When you talk about compassion and how it helps people, share personal stories and ask the children to share their experiences in giving or receiving compassion. Ask them what stops them from showing compassion, if they feel everyone deserves compassion and to whom they have shown compassion.
Show compassion for children when they are hurt or feeling bad. Children learn from the people around them all of the time, especially parents and teachers. Caron Goode, founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents International, notes that compassion is first learned at home. Talk about the benefits of compassion and how good it feels to care for others.
Volunteer with your grade school kid to put compassion into action. Develop a routine to exercise compassion in the classroom or at home. Kids can care for others by donating to a charity, visiting residents of a nursing home, reading to younger kids, tending to animals in a shelter, helping a person who is home-bound, donating clothes or toys to other children or visiting kids in a children's hospital.
Use creativity to engage kids in compassion. HumanityQuest.com outlines several activities that explore compassion, such as creating a book about what it takes to care and feed compassion, a collage of different photos depicting compassion, a mask of how compassion looks and drawing the feeling of compassion.
Tell stories about people or animals who demonstrate compassion. Children love stories and may have some of their own. Goode comments that children who hear and read stories with compassionate characters show more compassion toward others than those who listen to stories where violence is used to work out problems.
Talk about heroes and other compassionate figures. Children look up to heroes and people who have made an impact in the world. Discuss the actions of Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Mother Theresa or other people who are not so well known. Ask children what they think and feel about what those people did for humanity and how they can show compassion in their lives.
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