Why Kids (and Parents!) Need to Do Community Service

Would you take your kids to the local emergency room to teach them a lesson in compassion? Arguments could be made on both sides. On the one hand, kids can develop empathy, sensitivity, and selflessness through exposure to real life problems and even tragedies. But it can also be traumatizing to witness the harsh realities of life – for kids and adults. Is there something to be said for prolonging innocence as long as possible?

In this week’s episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents” on The Chopra Well, our hosts discuss ways in which parents teach their kids the importance giving back to the community. The ER example comes right from host Dr. Cara Natterson, who uses that tactic in her own parenting. Certain neighborhoods of Los Angeles can feel like a bubble, she and host Mallika Chopra say. You might live in a nice house, own a car, and send your kids to great schools, when just down the street people are living a very different lifestyle. But to most kids, their world is the only one they know. Exposing them to the blood and gore of an emergency room may seem overly traumatic, but in Cara’s words, “To see it is to know it.” With the ultimate goal of raising kind, compassionate humans, the shock of exposure to other realities of life may be worth it.

Empathy seems to develop naturally enough through witnessing other human beings’ suffering, but how do parents convey a sense of ecological responsibility to their children? Do pollution, environmental footprint, and sustainability make sense to us inherently, or these concepts ingrained in us over time, beginning in childhood? For host Dani Klein, water conservation is an issue she’s attempted to tackle with her kids. Her family lives in Southern California, where it is constantly “abnormally dry,” if not downright drought conditions. But as long as the faucets always deliver water and the sprinklers always turn on, it can be difficult for kids to grasp the reality of a water shortage. Dani approaches this by explaining the issue to her sons and implementing a policy of conservation (shorter showers, turning off the faucet when they’re not using it, and so on). These are small steps to start off with, but over time, the child who was sensitive to running water may become a teenager who asks for a fuel-efficient car, and later an adult who goes to work for an environmental advocacy group. See where we’re going with this?

What steps have you taken to teach social responsibility to your kids? Do the small steps count? Let us know in the comments section below!

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  1. […] Imagine the electrical storm within our brains, the constant activity of neurons and synapses giving birth to thoughts, feelings, and impulses in every moment. Consider the erratic and seemingly random movement of ants in a colony or birds in migration, who in spite of chaos adhere to organized, pragmatic patterns that serve their communities’ needs. […]