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On Raising Compassionate and Altruistic Children

I am of the belief that the concept of compassion, empathy and altruism begins at an early age and often in the home. Young children internalize the values of their adult relationships; whether it be their birth parents, grandparents, foster parents or whatever home environment they experience. Young people are like sieves, they are extensions of their role models and therefore, mirror the ways in which those role models behave toward others. If a child feels safe and secure at an early age, they are more likely to venture out into the world armed with those skills. Unfortunately, my experience has shown me that it is when they have been emotionally neglected and or devalued that they become conditioned to focusing on themselves, and their needs.

I’m not sure we can raise our children to have true altruism as adults without some kind of foundation of caring and respect. Teenagers are often inspired to care for other’s in much the way they have been cared for themselves and are able to find value in other’s when they have been valued themselves.

There are many ways to offer service to others and it is something I advocate in my therapeutic work with families. Although not everyone can volunteer a great deal of their spare time, or make financial donations, there are other ways to be selfless and in so doing, create a kind and compassionate nature. Whether it’s helping a neighbor, working at a food bank for the homeless, donating items from your home you no longer need, such as, clothing to appropriate organizations or churches, or quite simply by standing up for someone at school if they are being bullied, there is no doubt we control the ability to effect change. Finding the time to be selfless empowers one’s nature and both teens and even young children can benefit by doing so.

So whether we are parents or simply in a position to impact a young person, the way we teach and model our own behavior is critical towards helping to make better citizens of our young people. Whether it’s the simple nature of human decency or the larger sociological issues like guns and drugs; our willingness to reach out to others in need can have a powerful effect. When we exercise our moral willpower for the greater good and in so doing make the world a safer place for our young people, we have empowered them to take up the same arms for their generation and future generations.

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