by Shayna Whitehouse, PhD, School Pyschologist, Healthy Learning Paths’
Instructor, and scholar of kindness
We are part of multiple communities – small ones like our family and our neighborhoods and large ones like our country and even our world. We may learn of events that occur in any of those communities that sadden us or frustrate us, and when we hear of these events, we can encourage compassion and caring through our everyday actions. We can choose to demonstrate kindness to others and to model to the youth in our communities that kindness and compassion connects us all. The act of receiving and giving kindness helps us feel like a needed part of our communities and joins us as humans.
Showing and demonstrating kindness not only fulfills needs for someone else but it fulfills needs within us. When we help another person or being, we experience strong feelings of satisfaction, pride, and contentment. Our own perception of happiness increases. Experiencing these emotions helps us feel that we are important within our communities and that we are needed and valued by others.
How do we encourage kindness in our children?
- Model it: When with your children, model kindness and humor in your interactions with them and when you are interacting with other members of the community. Ask others how they are feeling and listen to their responses. Extend a helping hand when someone needs it. Afterward, talk about how everyone needs help now and then, and it is important to provide the help when you can. That helping makes the heart of a community.
- Praise it: When you observe your child extend kindness and compassion to another, reflect on it and state your pride in his behavior. Ask if he feels the positive emotions like pride, satisfaction, contentment, and happiness. Reinforce that by showing kindness to another your child is a necessary member of your community. It takes helpers to make a community thrive.
- Mention it: When you are watching a movie or reading a book with your child, mention when a character engages in caring acts or chooses kind words to talk with another. Ask your child when she has noticed others using the same type of kind behavior and language.
- Live it: Search out experiences that will let you share kindness with others. These experiences may be volunteering at a community center, a nature preserve, an animal shelter, a phone hotline, or a housing shelter. When we live it, we can sincerely feel the positive emotions that we receive. We can speak about and share the experience, which in turn encourages others to participate, allowing kindness to multiply through the community.
By extending kindness and care to others, we can create connections in our communities for our children, others and ourselves. These connections remind us that we are human, and we need each other to live. Our individual acts of kindness and compassion may not be remembered, but these acts create the relationships.