No one would argue that the election season we just endured was possibly the most divisive of all time. Regardless of how you feel about the outcome, it’s clear that Americans have much hard work ahead of us to heal the disunity. Although the chasm may sometimes feel too large to bridge, the truth is that the majority of the people in this nation truly want what’s best for our children and future generations.
Although we may not see eye to eye on how to get there, one thing is certain: We have a responsibility to our children to not only work towards unity, but to teach them to extend kindness both to those with whom we agree and those whose views differ from our own.
We hope you’ll take this Thanksgiving week to seriously consider how you can work toward these goals. Below are a few suggestions.
Start at home
Learning truly does begin in the home. It is never too early to start teaching our children to be kind, and it’s never too late either.
Model kindness in both your words and actions. Be mindful of how you speak to others and about others. Look for the good in your children and make a conscious effort to tell them why you’re grateful for them. Speak the way you want to be spoken to, offer help and encouragement often, and make sure your children know that you expect the same behavior from them.
The more often you put kindness into practice, the sooner it will become a habit.
Move out to your community
Children are born with the notion that the world revolves around them and it is our responsibility as parents to show them that it doesn’t. We tend to gravitate towards people who are similar to us, but that not only gives us a very homogeneous view of the world, it also lowers our empathy for those who may be different from us.
Take your children into your local community and introduce them to people who are different from them. Their view of the world, their ability to relate to others, and their desire to help those in need will grow the more they get out into the community.
Expanding their world can be done in a variety of ways:
- Attend cultural events, like fairs or concerts.
- Try out a new hobby your family has never done, like a sport or craft.
- Visit a local nursing home.
- Volunteer at a food pantry.
In another vein, don’t be afraid to let your children see you respectfully disagree with others. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give our kids right now is the lesson that having differing views is not a reason to end a friendship or get into a divisive argument. Kindness can extend even to disagreements.
Exposing your children to different viewpoints also teaches them that important issues are rarely as cut and dried as we’d like to make them and that careful consideration should be given to all sides of an issue before an opinion is formed. Learning to truly listen to people with different ideas will serve our children well throughout their lives.
Extend out to the nation and world
Once your children have firsthand knowledge that not everyone in the community lives like they do, they’ll be better able to understand that there are people who live in a variety of circumstances in other parts of the country and world as well.
Although you may not be able to travel to these places, you can still look for ways to be involved in causes that resonate with your family. You can donate money or needed items, sponsor a child, or even commit to sending letters of encouragement to people who may need them.
Teaching our children kindness by starting with our own actions may seem like a small step towards healing the hurt we see all around us, but our small actions can have a ripple effect, reaching people near and far. And if we accomplish our goal of teaching our children to be kind, our small step can ripple through to future generations.
Will you take that first step?