It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and the theme for this year is kindness. With the world currently turned upside down, being kind to our fellow humans has never been so important.
But how do we instil kindness into our children? How do we teach the next generation to put kindness above self gain, and value being kind above being cool?
Here are five easy ways to help your children be kind…
- Be their kindness role model
It goes without saying that, before you teach your children to be kind, you need to practice what you preach. This starts with the small stuff – letting people go in front of you when driving, holding doors open for others, buying items for the food bank collection points at the supermarket, helping elderly people with heavy bags, being gracious when people help you and always saying please and thank you.
Additionally, try not to make fun of others or criticise people (hard as that can be at times!). If you have a healthy respect and love for your community and your fellow humans, it will rub off.
- Read stories about kindness
Luckily, there are some great books that you can add to your nighttime reading rota that teach kids about kindness, gratitude and friendship.
One of the more well known ones is Have You Filled A Bucket Today? This lovely book shows how your behaviour can affect others, and also yourself. It encourages kindness as a way to make others happy and stay happy yourself. Something that is so important in today’s world.
You can buy it from Amazon here.
- Practice gratitude and reflection
A simple way to encourage children to focus on the good is to list or think of five things that you’re grateful for, and five things that have made you happy, every night at bedtime. With smaller children, this can take the form of a five minute chat before lights out.
It’s far easier to be kind to our fellow humans if we feel happy and positive about ourselves and our lives, and in this consumer-driven society, asking children to focus on the things that really matter – like family time and friendship – can really help to refocus their minds and stay positive.
Another small idea to practice gratitude is to help children make or write out thank you cards for birthday gifts and any other kind gestures.
- Reward kind behaviour
There are many different parenting techniques, ways to manage behaviour and mould our children into nice young people, but rewarding kind behaviour is always a good idea, whatever technique you follow. If your child gives their sibling their last sweet, helps with the shopping bags, or compliments or encourages a friend, make a big deal of it.
Rewarding and celebrating kindness will really help to encourage children and make them feel good about helping others.
- Volunteer and help fellow humans
It may be tricky in the present situation to help others in the same ways as usual, but if you can cook and deliver a meal for a family in need, collect some warm coats and blankets for local homeless people, deliver toys or toiletries to a women’s refuge or help someone with a medicine collection, get your children involved (as much as is safe in the current situation) and talk them through your reasons for helping and giving up your time.
Demonstrating to your children that giving up your time is just as important as giving your money or stuff will help them to focus on having a giving nature, rather than taking. It also demonstrates to them that helping others feels good, and helps us all to think about the bigger picture and take our minds from our own immediate struggles or anxieties. A win-win!
What’s your top tip for teaching your kids to be kind? Share the love and tell us in the comments.