Compassion and Consideration

Even though we are just one month into 2021, it just now feels like we are starting a new year. With the new school term, schools either have gotten a handle on the online format, or schools are opening up, and it seems as if we can take a deeper breath. Fingers crossed that vaccine availability improves, which will allow us all a bit more freedom. Masks still on, please, remember the vaccine doesn’t keep you from getting the virus, it just keeps you from suffering badly. It’s how we show our compassion and consideration for others

 It does please me how normal children seem with their masks on. I was in the grocery store the other day and watched a young girl make sure that the mask on her younger sibling was fitting properly. “Over your nose, remember that is the important part!” And then she turned to her mother and said, “I wish everyone paid attention to that part, it helps us all.” OK, so I know I was hearing something her teacher or her mother had told her, but the point was clear – taking care of each other is important.

One of the things we have all learned through the pandemic is that we do have to have compassion for others, because if we don’t, no one will show compassion for us. We are in a common calamity and for once, we actually do know how others are feeling. Usually, when horrific events happen in one place especially distant from us, we follow what is happening, but it is always something awful happening to other people. We feel sorry for them, donate to the appropriate charities, and privately say to ourselves – “thank goodness that won’t happen to me because…” When the pandemic first broke out, it was someplace else, but now it is everywhere and we all have to be considerate of each other.

How can you teach your child compassion for others? Primarily, as parents teach all lessons, through example. Having compassion for other’s misfortunes and treating everyone kindly will teach your child how to do the same. This website has a good description of how to do that for your child.

What happens when your child sees people, especially on the news, not treating others with kindness and consideration? One lesson your child learns is that it is acceptable to do that, especially when the targets of the hatred belong to particular groups. Remind your child that all of us belong to some group or another and there is someone who does not appreciate our beliefs, our customs, or our behavior. Point out that differences are just differences and that none of us is the same as everyone else.

The problem with school as it is now either online or behind masks is that it is so hard to allow children access to each other. That’s the real reason for having children attend school with each other. You can learn the academic lessons almost anywhere, but only when you share a classroom with others do you learn two major lessons:

  1. That not everyone thinks, feels, or believes as you do, and that does not make them weird or strange. You can have a best friend who is very different from you, but if you share a sense of humor or a liking for certain pastimes, you are connected to that person.
  2. That not everyone looks like you or has a similar family. Differences are rarely more than skin deep, if that, and what school is all about is expanding your understanding of others.

My high school was sponsored by a protestant church and the motto of the school was: What you keep you lose and only what you give remains your own. It took me several years to understand what that meant, but it has been my life’s motto ever since. Even if we do not share our beliefs with others, insisting that we are right is not the way to get along with others. Little children find this notion difficult and expect everyone to think as they do. That is a major advantage of going to school, that you learn that even though others do not share your ideas and beliefs, it doesn’t make them wrong. Because your child may not be in school at the moment, this is a lesson that your child needs to learn.

Look for other children for your child to interact with. Those children may be in your child’s classroom, living across the street, or you may know them because they are the children of your childhood friends. Let the children meet on some video chat source and get to know each other a bit. Then have them answer basic questions, something like (and this will depend on your child’s age): My favorite superhero is X because…. Or my favorite book is X because…. Each child answers the question and sends the information to the other child at the same time. They read what the other child has said and then talk about what each has said. Use items, school subjects, or other neutral topics to begin with. As they get to know each other, they can move to discussing friends, ideas, and beliefs. The idea is to help the children understand that other people have different ideas, but they can still share space in the world. One thing that may astound you is that children are far more willing to do this than adults.

Help your child develop links to others, that is the basics for developing compassion and consideration for others. The major problem of the pandemic is that we have been so separated. We all need to connect again.