A study done in 2012 with 9-11 year olds highlighted the benefits of children making kindness a priority in their day-to-day lives. The researchers found that kids who performed acts of kindness on a regular basis saw a positive change in their academic experience and were more socially accepted by their peers. Their acts of kindness also ended up benefiting their schools since these children tended to be more inclusive and less likely to bully others as teenagers.
As we all know, being kind makes us feel good. The physical feeling that accompanies giving is called the “helper’s high” and is created by the release of endorphins. This improves our children’s physical and emotional health.
So, how can we help our children focus more on kindness? When we role-model kindness and kindness fundamentals like empathy and generosity, kids can see them in action and view them as the norm. As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
It’s important for us to foster empathy skills in our children so that they can learn to care about other people’s viewpoints. The best way to teach your children empathy is for you to model empathy towards them. Be open to the range of emotions they express, and don’t shut down their unpleasant feelings like anger and sadness. If we can normalize the full range of our children’s feelings and teach them how to recognize and deal with their own emotions in a healthy way, they can learn to be more sensitive to others’ feelings as well.
All of us can give something to others, whether it is a hug, our time, emotional support, or something material. Talking to our kids about why we give and how it impacts us and others is vital. By modelling giving to others for our children, we are laying the foundation for their future happiness and health.
Here are a few activities and discussion topics to encourage more giving in your kids:
-Think about things you do with your friends and family that you might share with others. For example, if you or your child loves to draw, turn some of the drawings into cards for people who are in the hospital or in seniors homes.
-Volunteer your time and tell your child about the experience. Explain why it’s important to you to volunteer and encourage them to find a cause that is special to them.
-Talk to your kids about what charities you donate to and why. Ask them if they would like to donate part of their allowance to a cause that they believe in.
Each act of kindness makes a difference. Even the smallest gestures of kindness can communicate that we respect and value someone. Through kindness, we can all encourage our kids to be forces for good.