“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand” Confucius
With stringent stay at home measures that encourage social distancing and promote isolation, it is easy for all of us to take on an intrinsic perspective focusing primarily on ourselves and our loved ones. Sinking into our own life devoid of interactions with the outside world can deprive our children from the socialization experiences that create a healthy social emotional foundation. However, this moment in time, provides us with wonderful opportunities to start to teach our children about how to balance one’s own needs with those of others.
You might be thinking, your child is already compassionate, sweet and kind. But for young children, their limited life experiences means the kindness they exhibit centers more on their immediate world- their parents, extended family, their school. They might understand what it means to be nice to a friend and how to provide a sympathetic gesture when someone they know is sad, but kindness for the greater good is usually beyond their understanding. Gaining a big picture sense of how to be a socially responsible empathetic person can take a lifetime to fully comprehend.
But now that we are in a pandemic era, it is a different time, a different world. And with some adult modeling and guidance, children's narrow empathetic lens can easily be accelerated by expanding their focus to include a wider range of people, especially those vulnerable to the virus like senior citizens and essential workers; people most young children don’t really think about. This can be done by talking and modeling what an act of kindness looks like and feels like and celebrating each moment of kindness that your child is involved with.
These acts of kindness can relate to small and big ideas. To understand the ramifications of their actions, children just need to relate to the person or concept they are bestowing kindness on. Here are some examples:
Being an empathetic being is a process, but over time your child will master this complex skill by doing one act of kindness at a time. By helping your child become more aware of other people who are not normally on their immediate radar, you are helping to open up their mind and heart to the language of kindness and appreciation and giving them a sense of hope of a brighter tomorrow - an idea that we all need to hang on to in this uncertain time.