Community is what enables us to think beyond ourselves and have a sense of social justice. Most of the time when we speak of someone who is kind, who listens, who always seems to know the right thing to say, who seems genuinely interested in us and with whom we feel at home, we are describing a person who understands community.
In this realm, community may be thought of as being composed of two specific feelings – empathy and sympathy. Empathy is the ability to feel another person’s pain. Sympathy is feeling sorrowful that another person is suffering. These feeling can occur independently and simultaneously. Because of our capacity for empathy and sympathy, we can think beyond our immediate physical needs and creature comforts. A community minded person is not content to say, “I have mine, so now it’s every man for himself.” She looks beyond her own situation and is concerned with the welfare of others, often to the extent that she cannot be happy with what she has if she knows others have less. She wants everyone to have what they need. She knows that everyone should expect to receive a fair chance, equal opportunity, freedom from discrimination, and a full measure of equality and dignity under the law. You can help your teen become a community minded person by nurturing and enhancing his or her sense of sympathy and empathy.
Empathize with your teen. Sometimes it’s difficult, perhaps even painful, to recall how you felt when you were a teen. But when you do, you will discover you end up having more empathy for what your child is going through. This will also help you in expressing care for them as they pull away.
Make your home a laboratory for understanding community. This is contagious. Community minded parents raise community minded teens. As a parent, model sympathy and empathy and actions that display a sense of community. Share your opinions about those issues that are close to your heart. Explain why you care. Make it acceptable to have and share an emotional life with your teen.
Encourage your teen to hone their sense of community close to home. You can help sensitize your teen by helping them care for family members who are sick or indisposed. Additionally, encourage your teen to speak out for social justice.