Valentine’s Day is a special time of year, not just for couples and loved ones, but for families with children too. Valentine’s Day offers an excellent teaching moment for parents to share with their kids the importance of being loving, kind people, and to teach them how to be caring to others.
The best way to teach your children kindness and compassion is by demonstrating it yourself. You children’s ability to care about others must be nurtured by you in their early years and woven into the very fabric of your family’s life. The wonderful thing about compassion is that there are so many conduits through which you can communicate its messages that can impact your children. When you immerse your children in a sea of messages of compassion, they are all but assured of getting the messages loud and clear. Here are some of the best ways to show your kids care and compassion this Valentine’s Day.
Spend quality time together
The best way to show love to someone you care about is through the gift of quality time. In our busy lives, when we’re rushing from getting the kids ready for school, and then rushing to work, working all day, rushing back home, and everything else in between, life can feel hectic. We get so focused on doing the things we have to do that it’s easy to lose touch with the things we want to do, and the things that are really important: like spending quality time together.
This Valentine’s Day, focus on showing care and compassion with your kids by just spending some quality time together. Sit down with them and do one of the tasks that they enjoy. Is your daughter into coloring? Get out two coloring books, get down on the floor, and color together. Does your son enjoy putting together Legos? Dump out a new set and work on assembling it as a team.
The physical act of getting down on the floor with your kids puts you on the same level as them – literally. It creates a shared bond, as well a special moment of connection between you and your child. When in doubt, get on your child’s level – join their world and let go of yours for a little bit. This is one of the best ways to show care and attention to your kids – on Valentine’s Day and in general.
Write a special note
Depending on the age of your child, sending a handwritten note or special Valentine’s Day card is a wonderful way to show love and compassion. (Speaking of love languages, “words of affirmation” is another one of the five love languages – words are so important for showing love and care.)
Spend some time writing a note to your child with all of the reasons you love them: why they are special, why they are deserving of love, and just how much you love them. Providing notes of affirmation, love, and encouragement will bolster your child’s self-esteem, build confidence, and help them grow up with positive feelings about both themselves and others.
You can also encourage your child to take time to write out some special notes of their owns – maybe some Valentines – to show their love and appreciation to others. This will help to cultivate an appreciation for how important it is to connect with others and share words of kindness. Plus, it’s a great activity to do together – maybe even one that you can make a tradition year after year.
One of the most powerful things that you can do as a parent is really listen to your child. Give them blank space to talk, and encourage them to speak freely, while you listen attentively. This is especially important to do with children: so much of their days are spent under the care, watch and instruction of others, whether they are being spoken to, coached, or instructed. This means they are very often on the receiving end of the conversation, but they do not get as much of a chance to voice their opinions, and (more so) have someone truly listen.
It’s often said that the greatest gift that you can give to another person is the gift of your undivided attention. Just the act of really listening, and giving the speaker all the time and focus that you have can be so meaningful.
When you listen to your child, and allow them to speak, without judgment or expectation, you’re demonstrating an excellent example of care and compassion – and your child will notice this. Encourage them to speak often – ask open-ended questions, and don’t interject, even when they get to a natural stopping place. Or, continue to ask gentle, probing questions, like “How did that make you feel?”
Another great tactic for communicating with your child, and building their self-esteem and compassion is to ask these questions with a positive intent. So, instead of asking “How was your day?” shift your language so it’s inherently positive to “Did you have a great day today?” These subtle undertones of positivity will register in your child’s brain and help them to become more optimistic as a result.
Teach your child about judgement
” Being truly compassionate means you’re able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, empathize with their situation, and do what you can to help them. Showing compassion involves a perspective shift when it comes to how you perceive others and their intentions. Instead of assuming the worst about people and their intentions (e.g. “they’re rude” or “they’re selfish”), shift your perspective to believe there is some reason for them to be acting this way; that they have a good reason for their actions. This helps you internalize a more considerate compassionate attitude.
You can help teach compassion to your child this Valentine’s Day by talking about the idea of judging others or making assumptions about their actions. Teach them the importance of recognizing that we don’t always know what’s going on in people’s lives. For example, even though they see their school teacher every day, he or she has an entire life that exists outside of the school. They probably have a family of their own, as well as their own set of problems, struggles, and challenges.
Teach your child the importance of seeing that people are whole people, not just one-dimensional beings. This will help your child develop a deeper understanding of human nature in general, and begin to comprehend the true meaning of compassion.
Practice a random act of compassion
This one is much harder to plan in advance, as “random” acts of compassion are tough to orchestrate. But perhaps one of the best ways to teach your children care and compassion is by showing it firsthand. Yes, your children may listen to your words, but they also learn from your actions.
You can also look to other experiences, such as watching TV and movies, or reading books together, where the characters exhibit compassion. Point out instances of compassion as you see them, and explain to your child how a character’s action was kind and compassionate. Use a variety of sources and examples (as well as real-life examples) to teach your child the value of compassion – you never know what may strike them as a particularly poignant moment or learning experience. All children learn and comprehend information differently, so sharing various examples is the best way to maximize their information input.