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Emotional and Social Development

Fostering Compassion in Your Child

30 November 2017


Living compassionately yourself is the best way to foster empathy and kindness in your child. Our child development experts suggest ways you can model compassion for your child.

1. Speak compassionately to your child.

  • Use empathetic words with your child.
  • For example, if he or she falls down, try saying, “I’m sorry you fell,” instead of, “Get up.”

2. Focus on each person as an individual.

  • Demonstrate that people are not defined by how they look or by their special needs.
  • Acknowledge differences and talk about how that makes a person unique.

3. Show compassion to everyone.

  • The words we use are important. For example, if your child comments on another child’s appearance, you might say, “Wow, that’s sad. His mom or dad must not have a lot of money to buy new clothes.”
Embarrassing words can be teachable moments. For example, if your child says, "He walks funny," you can reframe the comment: "He needs that cane to help him get places. Should we ask if he needs help?"

4. Don’t shield your child.

  • Provide your child with opportunities to interact with children of different backgrounds and needs. Your child will get to know them as individuals.

5. Look for opportunities to show empathy.

  • Discuss things you and your child see.
  • For example, if you see an injured animal, talk about how it must feel. Discuss what you could do to make it feel better.

6. Help others.

  • Go beyond words to action. Take your child to volunteer at a soup kitchen or help rake a neighbor’s leaves.

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