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Bringing Compassion Back in the Era of Social Media
If it seems to you as if compassion is a dying trait these days, you might want to cast part of the blame on the social media world we live in. With 24/7 access to social media and the internet, kids are being exposed to more while also seeming to learn less about other people’s feelings and the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
Social media offers everyone — kids and adults — the opportunity to have a confrontation or say a nasty or mean-spirited remark without seeing the damage it does to the other person. They don’t have to hear their target’s voice or see their face after they make their remark.
And social media cuts down on the compassion and empathy they see from other people too. When they see some people mocking other people’s misfortunes on social media, it’s teaching them it’s okay to be like that.
So how can you teach your child compassion when there seems to be so little of it on social media?
Monitoring Their Social Media Exposure
As a parent, you should limit your child’s time on social media. Some kids spend hours a day on it, which takes away from their time for constructive things such as reading, exercise, and positive interactions with others.
But limiting your child’s time on social media isn’t enough. You should also be aware of who they’re talking to while they are on those sites. Encourage them to interact online with other kids from their church group or classmates you believe to be a positive influence. Surrounding them with the right people online will help them develop a healthy sense of compassion.
Get Them Involved
Nothing can help aid and nurture compassion as much as seeing firsthand how much some people really struggle. By volunteering at soup kitchens or nursing homes, your child can get a good sense of how fortunate they really are and how to care for those who aren’t as lucky as they are.
Every community has organizations that need help, and most of them welcome volunteers with open arms since volunteerism has been down in recent years through much of the U.S.
If your child isn’t sold on volunteering, offer to do it with them or enlist the help of one of their friends. If you’re dealing with a teenager, you might point out volunteering is a great way to pad their college application. Even if the reason they initially volunteer is self-serving, they’re still going to benefit emotionally and spiritually from it as well.
Watch Your Own Actions
Do you occasionally catch yourself saying something uncharitable about someone else when your child is within earshot? If so, they’re picking up on the lessons you’re teaching them.
While it’s okay not to think rosy thoughts about everyone all the time, you need to make sure you filter your comments for your children.
Show Your Child Some Compassion
When your child is in need of some understanding and care, make sure you give it to them. If they’re sick, you can give them a great lesson in compassion by taking care of their needs.
Have they just broken something in your household by accident, like a lamp or a dish? Explain to them that you understand it was an accident and that the item they broke doesn’t matter to you as much as their feelings do.
Discuss Compassion When You See It
Compassion can be a difficult thing for children to grasp. But they’ll become more familiar with it and how valuable it can be if you point out acts of compassion when you see them. They can be in real life or in movies or television shows.
Books also provide the chance to see and discuss compassionate acts.
Bring Them Around Animals
Having a pet or being around someone else’s pet is a great opportunity to learn about and practice compassion. It gives children a chance to sense how another living thing is feeling even though it can’t express it with words. Pet ownership also teaches about responsibility, empathy, and love.
If you’re on the fence about getting a pet, compassion is just one of the benefits. But if it isn’t right for your family, your child may get the same lessons by being around a relative’s pet and helping out with it.
Don’t Let Social Media Teach Your Child More Than You Do
Raising a child with a strong moral compass is more challenging than it used to be, thanks in part to social media and the excessive amount of screen time that children are getting. But that’s no excuse not to give it your all!
Remember at the end of the day, you’re still the parent and raising a compassionate child is your responsibility.
About the Author
Jenny Silverstone is a professional writer, editor, and most importantly, the mother of two beautiful kids. Jenny contributes to the popular parenting website Mom Loves Best, where she shares her journey and experiences through the gift that is parenthood.