Compassion, unlike confidence and competence, is the first of the critical areas of growth that extends beyond the boundaries of self and acknowledges the importance of others. When teens experience compassion for others – whether family members, friends, teachers, coaches, mentors, and people in the community, they contribute to their well-being as well as having their own well-being enhanced. Compassion draws on the notion that we as humans are inherently social creatures. No matter how confident or competent we may be, we still need other people to create healthy, productive lives. Ultimately, a person who is compassionate toward others is in tune with himself or herself. He or she has an awareness of their feelings and thoughts as they relate to both others and self. There are many ways adults can foster compassion so that teens feel more in touch with themselves, each other, their parents, the adults in the world, and their communities.
The best conversations with teens take place when you respect their needs relating to time and space. Timing is a huge variable when talking to teens. Just because you want to talk about something does not mean your teen agrees. Support your teens efforts to connect to people outside of the family.
Make compassion part of the conversation you have with your teens. Talk to your teen about the people you work with, your friends, your support systems, and your extended family. Reflect on why and how you value these people, how the relationships met your expectations, and where they have fallen short. Be active in your community. Promote social and emotional competence.
Create opportunities to collaborate with teens. If you begin this process early, it will be in place as teens grow and more important family decisions are at stake. Encourage cross-generational relationships. Make teens know that they matter.