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Raising Empathetic Children

My boys just had their heads’ shaved as a way to stand in solidarity with children fighting the beast called cancer.  They also did it as a way to raise money that will go toward childhood cancer research grants. This is just something that they do after seeing a childhood friend fight for her life for 6 years before losing her battle at the age of 10.  To me, and to them, it seems like second nature to continue with this fight and I don’t think they even find it heroic or noble.  Someone at our church made the comment that my husband and I shBaldould teach a class about how to raise good kids because of what she sees our boys involved in.  This actually took me by surprise because I think I am not doing anything different or even special.  Still, this did get me thinking and I guess it is because I am on a quest to raise my children to be aware of the world that exists outside of their own.  This seems like common sense but how often have we felt like life just gets too busy to do anything beyond taking care of the family and work?  When you’re just trying to manage your little world, how do you teach your kids about the rest of the world?

It started for us with deciding to find a church.  No, that seems too generic.  We wanted to find a faith family; somewhere we felt like we belonged and a place that would be part of our children’s upbringing.  The church we choose also believes in being a big part of the community and even has global outreach programs.  I don’t think we were thinking community wide much less globally when we first joined.  However, it didn’t take us long to realize that something so easy as being a part of the food pantry, and having our children see that there are people out there that do not have enough food, was a great way to teach them compassion for those in need.  We also started a Christmas tradition 23506148681_5941e55027_zwhen they were very young where each of them picks out a gift for another child.  My children are in charge of taking that gift to the donation site so they see where that gift is going.  We started that tradition when my oldest was 3. This past Christmas he surprised me with his choice of not getting any birthday gifts at his 11th birthday party in early December.  Instead, he asked everyone to bring a gift for Toys-for-Tots.  They have also been educated on conditions that other children face globally.  When a gentlemen came to our church to talk about the poor conditions in Haiti and how those children do not even have the privilege of attending school, we let our children pick the child that we would sponsor in the school that his organization had set up.  The child’s name is Blemy and our boys have seen him grow up through pictures for the last 7 years.  Often times Blemy’s name has been invoked to teach a lesson to one of the children when we find that they seem to forget how privileged they are compared to children in other areas of the world.

So you see, we don’t sugar-coat the world for our boys and we also aren’t afraid of 22560482756_245378db78_zhaving tough conversations with them.  Recently our almost 8 year-old had to do a report on an important woman in history.  He choose Anne Frank.  This choice led into a very difficult discussion about the atrocities of World War II, why we do not persecute others for different beliefs, and why we accept others even when they seem vastly different then what we are used to.  He has seen Swami Satchidananda’s Lotus Shrine and this discussion instilled in him the reason behind Swami Satchidananda’s lifelong quest in teaching people that we belong to “one universal family.”  In order to reach that one universal family ideal, we have to teach our children compassion on a community and global level.



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