Our Caring Crew supports children in learning how to take care of themselves and others.
Most parents hope for their children to be happy and have positive friendships and relationships. So what can we offer our children now, to help them with these things?
Early learning about kindness and social skills can have a huge impact on a child’s life later on. Luckily, children are born with the innate ability to love and care for others.
We know that kindness and early social skills increase peer acceptance and improved emotional well-being. Put into action, here are some ideas for how to raise caring children through various developmental phases:
It’s science, baby! Infants with secure attachment to their caregivers build brain structures to support ongoing healthy relationships with others throughout their life. By experiencing positive relationships, babies develop what they need to express caring towards others later on. So, what can you do to help?
- Provide safety, security, and regular routines for your baby.
- Meet your child’s basic needs (food, shelter, safety, love)
- Provide opportunities for joy and mutual enjoyment together. Express your love to your infant, showing that you care for them and that they are worthy of love and care.
In addition to what you’ve set in motion as a baby, little kids are beginning to develop a stronger sense of self and begin to explore the impact they have on others and other’s emotions. Help set limits around unsafe (or unkind) behaviors, while also understanding that this exploration and outburst is a normal and healthy developmental stage that they will move through.
- Stay calm while your child expresses big feelings. Show them that ALL their feelings are welcome.
- See your child’s testing of limits and boundaries as healthy exploration and not a sign that your child is an “unkind” person.
- See your child’s aggression as developmentally typical signs of dysregulation and need for connection and support.
- Validate and welcome emotions while firmly following through on limits. Try using a phrase like, “I see you are really mad about that, I’m not going to let you hit,” and then hold your child’s wrists until they are able to stay safe.
Big kids are now really beginning to understand their impact on others and many understand words and concepts like kindness and caring. Big kids are also at risk for feeling shame when they hurt others. Unfortunately, shame can prevent kids from taking responsibility for their actions and making things right. Big kids need to learn that we all make mistakes and hurt people sometimes, but we can work to repair and make things right. Show children how to also care for others outside of their family and friends. Big kids can start to take on bigger concepts and understand people who are different from themselves.
- Talk about the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is feeling badly about what you did (behavior), while shame is feeling like a bad person (sense of self). Help your child understand that they are a good kid, that is just learning how to make “safe/kind/appropriate” choices.
- Let your child know that we all make mistakes, and we can also do things to make it right.
- Model “repair” with your child. Admit to them when you make a mistake and make a plan to reconnect.
- Address judgments and biases in your family. We all have judgments that we carry from our upbringing and cultures. Do the work to become aware of these judgments and take steps to re-learn. Try doing some of this learning with your children at home.
- Get involved as a family in showing caring and giving back to your community.
There are many ways to promote caring at home. Our collection of caring creatures further dives into the topics of caring. What are some of the ways you encourage your children to show caring to themselves and others?
Our Caring Crew highlights specific learning concepts around caring to support children on their journey to reinforce their strong connections to self and others. Learn more about each Creature Collection within this Crew.
Layous K, Nelson SK, Oberle E, Schonert-Reichl KA, Lyubomirsky S (2012) Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51380. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0051380
Jones D, Greenberg M, Crowley M, (2015) Early Social Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness. AM J Public Health 105(11): 2283-2290. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4605168/