Let’s be honest, teens generally display self-centered behaviors that can drive adults crazy at times. Their obsession with their appearance, wanting the latest gadget, and dragging their feet to spend time with the family, especially their younger siblings, can be a source of frustration for many parents. How can we raise compassionate teens while at the same time allowing them the freedom to develop their identity through these challenging behaviors?
Compassion, or the desire to help someone, is a quality that is increases through practice and observation. The good news is that teens do show some compassion to others that we may not always recognize. This occurs when teens are supporting their friends through a “crisis” situation, taking care of a beloved pet, helping their little sister get dressed, or giving grandma a helping hand in the kitchen. Children, especially in the younger years and through middle school, learn compassion by what they see and experience in the home.
As a parent you may demonstration compassion by supporting and loving your teen unconditionally even when their decisions and actions are questionable. While it is important to be understanding regarding your teens behavior, it is imperative to discuss with your teen the inappropriateness of mistreatment of others and not to condone any acts of violence or hatred. You are showing compassion to your teen by setting those firm boundaries which instills safety for them and those they come in contact with. Every day experiences can even be life lessons in modeling compassion by being patient and kind while waiting in an overly crowed restaurant with slow service, helping a neighbor find their lost dog or even taking a teen home after a sports activity. It is the simple things in life that have the most impact in teaching the value of compassion.
There are many great opportunities in the community that families and their teen can volunteer in such as a local food drive, the Angel tree, the Humane Society, the Red Cross and senior citizen’s homes. Please check your local directory for more opportunities. By cultivating a firm foundation in compassion in your child they are more likely to continue these behaviors as adults in a world that is in dire need of a little kindness.