Guest Post by Ashley McIntosh – Encouraging Kindness in Kids
When I wrote The Girl and The Sun children’s book, I never imagined I would be launching it directly in the middle of a global pandemic. But it seems that now is actually the perfect time for the book to be available to the world. While we all try to navigate this new existence, a book about kindness (to oneself and others) appears to be more pertinent than ever, especially when it comes to encouraging kindness in kids.
Last week I sat on the couch with my 10-year-old daughter listening to her sadness about friends. Friends are an interesting thing since COVID-19 began because it is hard to know if their distance is because of the virus or because they are just not interested in the friendship anymore. I’m sure as an adult you may have noticed similar emotions around your own friendships since lockdown.
In addition to friendship confusion, the underlying anxiety that a pandemic conjures can be observed in the way individuals behave. When fear bubbles up inside, often judging or putting down others offers a quick distraction from feeling an uncomfortable emotion. On the increase are altercations between kids, and adults for that matter, around mask-wearing, the number of people in one’s household bubble, and use of hand sanitizer.
It is evident that we need some skills to bring us back to our hearts, to help us feel and honour the fear inside of us as a truth that we are all experiencing, and to encourage us to make decisions based on love rather than fear. The Girl and The Sun children’s book teaches that we all have a sun inside our heart that is our loving, wise leader. We also have a cloud that floats above our head and is in charge of our stressful, judging thoughts.
Every moment, we are faced with choices: how to speak, act, and treat others. The question we can ask is: In this moment, am I going to let my cloud be my leader? Or am I going to let my sun be my leader?
If we let our cloud lead, then it gets bigger and fear grows inside of us. If we let our sun lead, then it gets bigger and our heart fills with love which spreads all around. Our sun then shines through the cloud and turns our stressful thoughts into loving ones, and we feel free to paint the world with our own unique rainbow of emotions and values.
With the sun, cloud, and rainbow metaphors, caregivers can initiate effective and fun conversations with their little ones about kindness. Here are 5 ways that you can encourage kindness in kids.
Related: 8 Tips For Co-Parenting Effectively
1) When you give love, you get love
Being kind to others feels good. When you let the sun in your heart lead then it gets bigger, and you are filled with warmth. Imagine someone were to ask for a piece of chocolate. If you let your cloud lead, and you refuse, then take note of how you would feel. Yes, you would keep your chocolate, but you would feel disconnected from the person who asked. Instead, if you let your sun lead, and share the chocolate, then picture the amazing feeling that would fill your heart. You have less chocolate, but you have gained so much more through your generosity.
2) You don’t have to believe your cloud
Everyone has a cloud, and so everyone has thoughts sometimes that put others down. You can’t get rid of those thoughts, but you can decide whether or not to let them lead your actions. If you hear thoughts from your cloud, you can bring your attention to your sun and let it lead your decisions from love.
3) Everyone has a sun
Even if it seems as though an individual’s sun is gone, remember that everyone has a sun and it can never go away. Sometimes someone’s cloud may be so big that it is difficult to see their sun, but that doesn’t mean that they do not have one. The more you see the sun in that person, the more it can emerge.
4) Stand up for yourself and others by speaking your truth
One way to express your rainbow to the world is to speak up for yourself and others. Often the red colour of your rainbow represents anger. Anger can emerge when someone is not honouring your boundaries. It is important to ask: “What is this person doing that I don’t like? How are their actions making me feel? Why?” Your answers help form an “I statement” which sounds like this: “When you __________, I feel __________, because ________.” For example, “When you told the class my secret, I felt betrayed because I felt like you didn’t care about me as a friend.” Sometimes just writing out the statement can help you feel better. Other times it is important to say the statement to the person and stand up for yourself or someone else. When you speak, connect with your sun and use a calm, strong voice that comes from your heart.
5) Let others’ true colours shine to show kindness
Just like you have your own rainbow, everyone around you has their own unique rainbow that they like to express to the world. It would be a boring world if every rainbow was the same. In order to encourage kindness in kids, allow and appreciate the different ways that people like to be in this world and let them shine.
For more ways to encourage kindness in kids, check out Ashley McIntosh’s self-development blog, book, & workshops on her website here: www.ashleyandthesun.com
Find a free worksheet on respecting yourself, others and the world: here