How To Teach Your Children To Care About Others

As a parent, it can be hard enough to teach children to share with their siblings. So how can you instil a sense of empathy in your children for people they've never met?

Luke Oades, 15, described how a chance meeting inspired a new sense of empathy for people less fortunate than himself.

Luke has always tried to be generous. He helps out at home, donates to charity and works on the youth council to improve his school. It's not unusual for him to give spare change to people in need.

But recently, asking one simple question changed the way he saw the homeless in his community.

Luke Oades, 15, has always tried to be generous to others

Luke was walking home from school one day and saw Jason, a homeless person he often passed on the street.

Jason was standing outside the fish and chip shop with a coat wrapped tightly around his shoulders, a small dog panting at his side.

Luke had seen Jason many times before, always at the same place, but they'd never spoken, until now. Luke himself had pets at home, and stopped to say hello.

As they talked and played with the dog, Luke learned how Jason had ended up living on the streets. He also learned that Jason was an entrepreneur. To make money to take care of himself and his dog, he sold the Big Issue, something that Luke admired.

"If I was in his situation, yes, I might want a sandwich and a drink," Luke said to himself. "But what else would I want? I don't know, so why not ask?"

The next time Luke saw Jason, he asked him, "If you had £5, what would you buy?"

Jason told Luke how difficult it was to find somewhere to sleep as the local shelters didn't allow pets. The next day, Luke bought Jason a tent so he would always have somewhere to stay without having to give up his dog.

When asked about his inspiration, Luke said it was his parents because they have always taught him to think about others and to imagine himself in their place.

"Whatever you grow up with is what you see," he said.

How can you lead by example and help your child empathise with others? Here are three tips to get you started.

1. Let children catch you in everyday acts of caring.

Take time to explain you are emailing an old friend or sending photographs to an elderly relative or running an errand for a busy friend.

2. Make room to step back.

If you and your child witness another child's tantrum, discuss what might have prompted the meltdown. "Do you think the little girl was hungry? Or tired? Do you remember how it felt when you asked to go to the playground and I said no?"

3. Help children imagine what it's like to be somebody else.

Ask your child to imagine what it might be like to be the teacher or a parent up against cranky children at the end of the day. You will be nurturing empathy any time you can inspire your children to consider how someone else might feel.

These tips are adapted from The World Needs Your Kid: Raising Children Who Care, contributed by Craig and Marc Kielburger, co-founders of Free The Children.

The Kielburgers are also co-founders of We Day, a series of events that inspire and empower young people to be active local and global citizens.

Free The Children provides educational resources for local and global issues to help you make a difference: from fun activities you can do at home to awareness and fundraising campaigns.

We Day 2015

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