March 26, 2019


Earlier this month, the world was rocked by an unspeakable act of violence against people who were peacefully following their ritual of worship in Christchurch, New Zealand.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has won widespread praise for her sincere empathy and compassion in her dealings with the victims and survivors of the attack.  In particular, her choice of wearing a headscarf has earnt her plaudits from all over the world, with Dubai projecting the image on the world’s tallest building.

What exactly is compassion?

Compassion literally means “to suffer together”.  Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.

The Dalai Lama says of compassion:  “If you want others to be happy practice compassion.  If you want to be happy practice compassion”.

 Three simple steps to foster compassion in your child

Act as a compassionate role model to your children and others

Your children, when they are young, will notice the larger compassionate acts you make such as volunteering your time for a worthy cause or going out of your way to look after your neighbour when they are sick.   As your children get older and begin to understand compassion better they will also notice your smaller expressions of compassion such as taking time out to comfort them when they’ve hurt themselves or supporting your partner by taking over their cleaning chores when they come home stressed from work.

Help your children create more awareness by asking compassion-related questions

When your child comes home from school with stories about their friends being hurt or upset ask them questions to create more awareness about the feelings the child involved will have experienced.  Ask them “How do you think they felt at the time?”   “What did the teacher or their friends or you do to help them?”  “How do you think they feel now?,  “Is there anything else you can do to help them feel better?”

Expand your child’s circle of concern and awareness of others

Harvard Graduate School of Education recommends you help your child create awareness of others around them by fostering a wider perspective of the world.   Teach your child how to zoom in so that they can tune in better to other people and their feelings and also teach them to zoom out, taking in multiple perspectives and people.  You can use newspaper or TV stories to start conversations with your child about other people’s challenges and difficult times or you can simply notice the different experiences of children in another country or community.

How do you foster compassion in your kids? Tell us in the comments below.

Anky Balfoort is an experienced positive parenting trainer and life coach with over 10 years’ experience and 15 positive parenting, positive psychology and life coaching related qualifications. She has helped many families and individuals achieve positive outcomes in life including improved family harmony and relationships, work/life balance, confidence and self-esteem. For more info visit: www.cohesivecoaching.com.au or www.facebook.com/cohesivecoaching


  • I try to teach my kids to have an open mind and compassion by doing so myself or explaining why someone might be doing something negative, underlying issues not just they’re a jerk. We need more compassion in this world and the kids are the future.


  • I’ve been focused more on this subject later. When my sons friend was sad the other day I talked to my son and said that his friend was sad and maybe he should go and sit with him.


  • yes it is a good way to foster, thanks for sharing


  • Children learn so much by watching and copying how we are as parents.


  • It is all very good for politicians to visit the sites of disasters but you never see them physically helping. Her speech was very compassionate, not just critical


  • This is a good read


  • I grew up in Christchurch N.Z
    Omg, the little city BIGGEST for South Island of New Zealand has just recovered beautifully from the earthquakes! Everyone I knew went through trauma in some way.
    And monuments and walking paths have been made in place of destruction. New homes built….anyway now this.
    One mans mission decimating small areas reputatiion. Or has it?
    Jacindas words directly after his massacre were so profound.
    The Muslim’s are “us” are “home” when do you ever hear an Australian politician say these words or even close to it.
    She made people think.
    Has all this “ terrosim” become fear mongering from The Top so this young white man felt this was his duty or right as these people were not “us”.
    I felt homesick after this event and seeing the closeness happening in N.Z . Who do we have. Pauline Hanson?? When does anything positive get said out of her mouth.
    Jacinda prompted so much compassion to this loss of life with her words.


  • I want her to be our Prime Minister. Maybe we could crowd fund her…


  • What a beautiful person and wonderful leader Jacinda Ardern is. The world needs more people like her.


  • Learning to see things through the eyes of others helps us understand each other.


  • So important and so is empathy. It’s something hard to teach but is very worth it for who they become

    • Too true, and very important to help us create a kinder world.


  • Compassion is a very important thing for people to have I think. Every year I collect and buy toys and books through the year and then at Christmas time my nephews and my son and I deliver them to the less fortunate. They love doing it and have learnt to think about others more. These are also some great tips I will be making sure to use with my son.

    • They are great ways to teach your son compassion :-).


  • My eldest daughter struggles with compassion and putting herself in the shoes of others.

    • Hopefully these tips will help:-). Let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with.


  • The NZ PM did an amazing job. Her compassion and leadership during this time is groundbreaking. The most touching aspect is she is modest when putting her people first. There are some PMs that visit disasters, but it feels like they are on tour. None have shown this kind of empathy, making her a truly inspirational woman.

    • I so agree with you, I watched her on the Project last night and what struck me was her caring and warm nature as well as her humility. A rare combination for someone leading the country.


  • It would help if our leaders here could show the kind of empathy we’ve seen in New Zealand.


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