Sprinkle A Little Compassion This Holiday Season

‘Tis the season for champurrado, arroz con leche, eggnog, and sorrel punch (if you’re from Jamaica.) It’s also the time for Christmas caroling, and gifting.  This is the best time of the year for most, and a cheerless time for others. Unfortunately, not every family and child anticipates enjoying this time of year, due to hardships or circumstances. Amidst the twinkling lights and long gift lists, it’s important we spare a little extra time to sprinkle compassion.

What does Compassion mean?

Compassion is the act of being able to feel another’s worries, distress, and emotions. Compassion is the act of demonstrating kindness to another when you’re able to relate. Compassion is often confused with empathy, while both are taking action to help others, having empathy doesn’t mean you relate emotionally.

Why is Compassion important?

According to PositivePsychology.com, compassion is as vital to life as the air we breathe. For in the absence of compassions, heroic deeds would have not happened throughout history. For example, devoting your life to care for the sick like Mother Teresa, or organizing for fair working conditions like Cesar Chavez. Compassion allows individuals to feel for another human being and act upon it to make a difference.

Who gets the first act of Compassion?

The first person who should receive the gift of compassion this holiday season, is you.  In order to demonstrate compassion to others, it’s important we begin with showing kindness and forgiveness to ourselves. Self-compassion is forgiving ourselves for the little and big things that we haven’t crossed off our lists during the holidays, or even the entire year. Another tool to help you practice the act of self- compassion is by treating yourself like a child. What would you say to a child who has tried hard and failed? Would you remind them of their incompetence? Or would you ask them to forgive themselves, consider possible ways to change, and try again? Most likely it would be the latter.  The act of self-compassion is the practice of allowing ourselves to be human.

What is an easy and fun way to teach children about Compassion?

An easy and fun way to teach compassion is by reading.  You can begin with visiting your local library or bookstore and looking under the mindfulness section. One of my favorite children’s compassion books is Hey, Little Ant by Phillip Hoose and Hannah Hoose, illustrated by Debbie Tilley. This is a humorous dialogue between a boy, and an ant who is asking for his life to be spared. This book shows great contrast in how each one sees the world.  Here’s a list of 16 books that also teach compassion.   

How do children learn Compassion?

The best way to teach compassion to children is to model the behavior. Teaching compassion is an act of courage, for it also teaches children empathy. Compassion looks like; collecting clothes or items no longer used and dropping them off at the shelter, adopting a senior (reading, playing a game, or doing chores for someone who isn’t capable), creating “Get Well” or “You’re Special” cards to children at the pediatric center at your local hospital, etc. Click here for additional ideas.

The holiday time is a great time to sprinkle compassion to all you come in contact with. Whether it’s by deep listening, giving a gift or hug, or by showing kindness; compassion is something that’s always needed and that can create endless ripples. By teaching children compassion, you help foster the skills of relatability and increase their acts of kindness in adulthood. Furthermore, teaching compassion is much like riding a bike; it’s a skill that when learned, is impossible to forget.

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Karen Cervantes Jimenez

Karen Cervantes Jimenez

Karen Cervantes Jimenez a grant writer, storyteller, and advocate of the physical and social environment. She believes everyone is unique and that by sharing their personal stories, they can make a difference in education. She is an LAUSD and CalState University of Northridge alumna. In addition, she is an Autism Awareness and Emotional Intelligence advocate. She has three children (who are her inspiration) and lives with her family in Buena Park, CA.

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