As the week went on, there were of course a few squabbles. Someone felt left out when others went to the pool, while another felt a new friend was being made fun of by others in our cabin. I have three girls, so I was prepared for a few doses of girl drama, but I felt it was a great time to stretch the girls and help them feel empathy for others they had just met.
These girls were from so many different backgrounds. They each faced unique challenges at home and at school. I couldn’t know what they had been through before that week, but I wanted to do what I could to help them go home just a little bit differently. We spent time talking about hurt feelings, hurting families, and even hurt based on skin color. They let their guard down and shared some of their deepest struggles. I, in turn, shared some hurts from my past and how they had affected the way I treated people.
It’s not enough to teach kids what not to do – we also have to teach them what to do to promote kindness and compassion among their peers. Because I shared my own stories, the girls felt safe to share their own. It was amazing to see them lift each other up and share the beauty they saw in their new-found friends.
To promote kindness in your children, you must model it. Start by being an “includer” yourself. We can get so wrapped up in our phones and social media that even in a room full of people we can end up alone. Show your children how to walk up to a stranger and be a friend. Show them how to look for a person who may need someone to talk to. Make a point of reaching out to someone who looks different than you. If we show them the habits of kindness, they will begin to practice them when we aren’t there to provide an example.
It has been said that kindness is contagious, and in fact there are even studies to prove it. By teaching your child to be kind, you could affect the environment of their classroom, their school, and, one day, their community. Make an effort to spread kindness this month and give life to your story.