Have you ever shared anything with anyone? It might be a few sips of your favourite drink, a bite of your special treat with your best friend at school? Or maybe your roomie’s clothes for a night out while at college? Sharing is caring and you still have fond memories of those shared tiffin dabbas at school. It is fun, but sharing is also a privilege.
We may all be the same, but there are disparities. Just like some of us are born in villages, some in cities, some of us live near the seas while others live near the mountains, there are some of us who have more than we need or while some others do not have enough. A beautiful home, food on the plate,toys and travel are often taken for granted. Raising an empathetic child may be our goal but we are often not sure where to start.
The right age
Like with everything else be age appropriate. Your toddler can understand the concept of sharing, especially with siblings and other family. So teach them to take turns with toys, give a favourite food, or just their space with you.
Make sure it matters
If you do not need it anymore or have any use for it, giving is a lot easier. Giving what you have out grown of is not real sharing. The gift has to be of use to the receiver and meaningful to the giver. Make sure your child understands that.
Choosing to give
Even the most generous among us have things we are reluctant to part with. It could be a book that you bought in college that holds memories of fun times, or a piece you picked up on your travels that remind you of family fun. Children too must have the choice. If you ask them to give away a toy, make it one they choose.
Acknowledging it’s hard
Giving is not always easy. We love our comfort zones, familiar toys and even regular places at the dining table. If your child is attempting to be generous and share some of his goodies, be sure to tell him you know how it brings mixed emotions. Label the emotions. Kids as young as 18 months of age are more likely to share and help when they had emotions labelled and explained to them.
Finally we all like to know we have done well. So praise your child for his compassion, empathy and sharing. Reinforce the good they do when young so that they grow into compassionate caring adults. It may be just playing with their favourite toy and including someone else in it.
Give of yourself
And as always it comes down to what you do. ‘Do what I say’ works a lot less than ‘do what I do’. In fact, not surprisingly, studies have proved that altruistic parents are more likely to have children who are as willing to share.
This year on Valentine’s Day as you and your little ones bask in the rosy glow of love, cocooned by the warmth of family and friends, it may be time to think of sharing the privilege. Step out of that circle of love and stretch that love a little. Encourage your child to give something they still care for, to someone who has less. That may be the best valentine gift of all for time to come. Happy Valentine’s Day!