Teenagers often come off as self-centered beings, worrying mostly about themselves, how they look, their social life and their stuff. But it is possible for teens to show compassion -- you just might have to look a bit harder. Even teens that seem selfish are capable of consistently showing compassion. And, when given the opportunity to practice a little selflessness, you might be surprised at how well your teen responds to a call for compassion.
A teen's social life usually takes precedence over just about anything -- that's why your teen is constantly calling, texting, planning and hanging out with her friends. But spending time with friends also gives her plenty of opportunities to show her compassionate side. Anything from comforting a friend after a bad breakup to pitching in when another friend is falling behind in school means your teen is practicing a selfless act for someone else -- that's a testament to your teen's compassionate side.
No, not every teen has the time -- or the desire -- to pitch in at a homeless shelter. But other opportunities for volunteerism exist in the school system, extracurricular activities and in church groups. Tutoring younger children in math, pitching in around a neighbor's overgrown yard, babysitting a family member's kids for free and working with a church group can all be considered volunteerism. And, if done with friends, your teen is even more likely to lend a hand -- DoSomething.org reports that 70 percent of teens who had friends who volunteered were likely to do the same.
While your teen might be grossed out when you try to give him a hug or a kiss, he can be compassionate toward you and other family members. Sitting down for dinner as a family, watching a TV program with his younger brother or helping a sister with a computer problem are all ways a teen shows compassion without all of the mushy, embarrassing stuff. Be aware of how your teen shows his compassionate side, even if it's a bit unorthodox.
If you're worried your teen isn't compassionate enough, start creating opportunities where she can show her selfless side. Arranging for family volunteer opportunities, such as helping out at a food bank, donating gifts for a toy drive or gathering items for charity, helps your teen understand the importance and the benefits of helping others. You can also be a good example of compassion toward your teen by genuinely listening to her, lending a hand when she's stressed or giving a quick -- if a little squirmy -- hug when she's down.
- Seattle Children's Hospital: Teaching Teens Compassion Around the Holidays
- DoSomething.org: Young People and Volunteering
- The Five Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively; Gary D. Chapman; p.219
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images