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How To Help Your Teen Develop Compassion – 7 Wonderful tips

art depicting teenagers with compassion slogan

Teaching Compassion In Teens: Raising a Caring Teen

The year 2020 has been a great teacher for all of us. It reminded us about the fundamentals of life & we all revisited our priorities.  This year also had a great impact on our teens and has taught them a set of important lessons in life which will hopefully make them a better citizen of this new world. Empathy & Compassion were not mere words in the dictionary, and we saw people actually displaying them abundantly.

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So, when our teens saw the love for humanity all around, did they become more compassionate? Is compassion “Nature” or can be “Nurtured”? Studies show that babies are born with compassion but as they grow older this takes a turn towards selfishness. Hence Empathy & Compassion needs constant practice & reinforcement as the child goes through various stages of growth.

Empathy Vs Compassion

While we use empathy & compassion interchangeably, there is a slight difference between the two.

Empathy is the ability to feel what another person is feeling. When we empathize, we can understand & appreciate the other person’s perspective. We may or may not agree with the person but can feel his/her emotions.

Compassion is Empathy which gives rise to the desire of helping that person. Therefore moving from empathy to compassion should be our ultimate goal.

Empathy, Compassion & Today’s Teens

Coming back to the point I raised earlier, empathy & compassion can be & should be nurtured as our kids pass through various stages of growth. 

Out of all these Teenage years are the most crucial years. The Teenage mind is like a jigsaw puzzle where he/she will try to fit several experiences, learnings, values, emotions & friends. Some of these pieces fit in easily while we as parents may try to force-fit others.

If our teen is not comfortable with that part, he may just discard it & move towards something else.

Therefore, it is our responsibility to ensure that Empathy & Compassion find the right slot in our teen’s mind and gets locked there.

teen showing compassion to elderly

Ultimately this puzzle will be solved when our teen becomes comfortable with all the pieces and is ready to step out as an adult. Till then we have lots of permutations to work on and the sooner we start, the better it is.

Being parents to two teen daughters, we are also trying to solve this jigsaw puzzle. So what are the things we are doing to make them more empathetic and compassionate? Here is our list of to do’s to cultivate & nurture compassion.

There is no one size fit all, but we can all learn from each other.

Teaching Empathy & Compassion in 7 ways

1. Staying/Interacting with Elders

teens showing empathy to elders

We come from India where the grown-up adults usually live with their parents in a joint family.  I was lucky enough to be brought up by my grandparents as both my parents are doctors and were busy with their duties.

Similarly, my daughters had their grandparents as caretakers while my husband and I pursed our careers.

Now that my daughters have grown up, I definitely see a lot of merit in having grandparents around. While in their earlier years, my daughters got all the love and attention from them, now is their time to return this favour.


Its not only above love and caring, it’s also about important lessons they will pick up while being compassionate. They will learn-

  • Importance of a family unit
  • How to respect a difference of opinions
  • The inevitable Cycle of Life- Each one of us will go through different stages in life. Hence make the best of every stage in life but be mindful that it is temporary.

If you don’t have elders in the house, pl do take your kids to old age homes where they can interact with elders and spend some time with them. We made sure that we visited old age homes on our or our girl’s birthdays so that we can spend some time with them. And our girls still remember and cherish those visits.

2. Show Compassion for our Enablers

Nurturing compassion

Who are our Enablers? These are people because of whom we can do something that we want to do. We also call them our Helpers.

It’s essential to treat people who serve us – our helpers with dignity and respect. This is one of the key lessons I learnt from my mom, and I ensured that my teens practise it in their daily life.

For me, my helper is the reason I can go out and work peacefully. We know that our family & house is in excellent and safe hands. There is no point in donating to charitable institutions when we can support our domestic helper’s families in securing education & better life. This is the best example of compassion.

Again this becomes very relevant in today’s time when so many people lost their jobs and had a difficult time making ends meet.


Always do keep in mind that our actions are being closely observed, analysed & imbibed by our children, especially our teens. And this one virtue will help them to stay grounded and compassionate to their support system. They will appreciate their privileges and at the same time, learn to share these with the ones who need it the most.

3. Be Environment Friendly

Teens planting trees

We have only one world to live in. When we were all in quarantine, we saw our environment thrive. The birds were back on the trees, the sky was blue again and the air was pure.

Our teens have seen this change and understood that the world they took for granted could be changed if the human race wants. Let these learnings not go waste.

We can encourage our teens to be compassionate towards our environment by taking these baby steps:

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

This year has taught us that we can live comfortably in a few pairs of clothes and shoes. Most of our wardrobe was lying unused for most of the year. So, do we really need to stuff our wardrobe with things we may use only once?

Also, look at options of recycling their stuff and reusing if possible. And always be open to donating to the lesser privileged

  • Don’t contribute to the pollution

Whether it’s using shared transport or carrying your own bag for shopping, these small steps help reduce pollution in the environment.

A simple action of switching off lights, fans & air conditioners help conserve energy and your money too.

Our Teens must understand that we all together need to be a part of the “Solution” and not part of the “Pollution”.

4. Commingle with Differently abled

Teen showing compassion to differently abled

The only Disability in Life is a Bad Attitude.

 I think our teens are more open-minded and compassionate to the needs of differently-abled than we were when we were kids. And we definitely need to thank the various social media platforms that bring together people with different abilities and celebrate their successes and help them integrate with society.

Even schools are playing an important role by creating awareness and making them a part of normal schools wherever possible.

But there is always a scope and need for more. Therefore, we should continue to nurture this compassion be sharing stories/experiences and also family visits to the care centres.

5. Respect Diversity

LGBT flag with BLM protestor

This has been the hottest topic of discussion, debates and unrest this year. And I am glad the teenagers around the world were at the forefront.

Respecting Diversity in terms of race, religion, gender preferences in this day and age is a necessity and no longer a privilege.

The BLM movement and LGBT rights have been on top of our dinner discussion topics last few months. My husband and I are amazed as well as happy that our teen girls are so vociferous on these topics.

While we certainly want them to be supporting these causes, they also need to be open to hear different perspectives. This will help them in three ways –

  • They would be able to have a balanced point of view and not get swayed by emotional speeches.
  • Hearing counterpoints will help them to have better objection handling capabilities.
  • Teens must know how to carryout non-judgmental conversations.

Anyways coming back to the main point, I must confess that our teens gave us important lessons on which words should not be used while speaking to people as we may offend someone. Interesting, isn’t it?

Showing respect and compassion for people having with different set of choice than ours, will make our world a better place. And this is being spearheaded by the teens of today.

Do you agree?

6. Show Compassion Towards Negative Behaviours

showing compassion to a friend

We always tell our teens that a human being is a total of his upbringing and experiences that shape his personality. His/her attitude, mindset, actions & reactions are influenced by this journey. So the person’s interaction can either be an outcome of his life journey or an exception due to the circumstances.

Therefore there may be something more than what meets the eye for why a person reacted in a certain way. E.g. any child coming from a broken marriage or disturbed family backgrounds will have some residues in their mind.  So if their friends are reacting in a certain way, they need to be compassionate to understand their feelings and help them come out of those if possible.

This is not an easy task especially when the teens themselves are at such a vulnerable age.

I feel they need to give it an honest try at least. They may finally decide to part ways but will not hold grudges.

But as I mentioned, this approach needs to be nurtured and encouraged time and again for them to adopt it wholeheartedly by the time they reach adulthood. And if they are successful, they will be more at peace with themselves and the world.

7. Be Compassionate towards Self

Mom showing compassion to teen

I think this is most important as everything starts with ME. If I am not happy or If I need help, I will not be able to help. After all, I cannot pour from an empty vessel.

Today’s teens live in a very dynamic and stressful world.  I call this world the “VUCA” World.

V- VOLATILE– Liable to display rapid changes of emotion depending on whether the internet speed is acceptable, or they have the expected “Likes” on the social media posts.

U- UNCERTAIN– of what they want to do or where their priorities lie. These change every day due to the exposure to social media, influencers, and friends & of course the ever-cautious parents.

C- Our kids certainly live in more COMPLEX times than us as a result of a plethora of choices to follow, from clothes to career to numerous online challenges.. with social media dictating how one should eat sleep dress and most importantly live our lives. Terms like Cyber Bullying, FOMO, Body-Shaming & Imposter Syndrome are things happening in our world & maybe closer to home.

A- We live in times that are in many ways, AMBIGUOUS. Maybe that’s why kids want precision in what they read, hear & expect – they don’t like that moral ambiguity. But we as parents are still transitioning from the morals of yesterday to the realities of today. That’s where the conflict arises. Therefore all their choices, questions, likes & dislikes are influenced by this complex world.

Therefore when our teens react, we must keep this background in mind. My husband & I are strong proponents of “Reverse Parenting” Approach. To know more about this, I recommend going through my blog on Powerful Parenting that will make your Teen Soar.

From their reactions, we as parents will come to know what the teen may be going through at that point in time. Therefore instead of jumping to give our opinions, we should let our teen share his/her fears, challenges, stress trigger points.

We need to let the teen know these 3 things –

  • It is perfectly normal to feel what he or she is feeling, and they can share their feelings openly with us.
  • They should not hesitate to seek help if required.
  •  Self-compassion is required, but it should not lead to self-pity.

Self-compassion will allow them to look at things objectively & try to come out of the current situation. While self-pity will push them further into their own sorrows or misfortunes & lead to low self-esteem.

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To Summarise:

This list is endless, and there is so much more that can be added. But the most important thing is to lead by example. And if we parents show compassionate behaviour, there is no way our kids will not imbibe.

Being Compassionate means doing things for people not because of who they are and what they do in return. But because of who you are. And our teens need to learn this.


Are you willing to join me in my endeavour? If yes, please do share this with your friends and let’s make a difference to the lives of our teenagers.

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How To Teach Your Teen Compassion – Here Are 7 Wonderful Tips!

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3 thoughts on “How To Help Your Teen Develop Compassion – 7 Wonderful tips”

  1. Excellent piece of writing…
    And I know it for a fact that in your household… you actually follow what you are writing here…
    And because of that both your girls are growing up to be exceptional young ladies….
    God bless you & your family ??

  2. It was a delite to read it . I am a mother of 10 year old daughter…..could completely relate it . With soo much of simplicity you could express it all . Loved reading it .

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