Today, Valentine’s Day, may be a manufactured holiday, but let’s not forget that it reminds us to get in touch with our inner senses such as love, compassion, and empathy. Sure, we love the chocolates, the cards, and maybe some frills here and there, but what we really should do is express to all those around us or maybe lost in distance, that we ‘feel’ and ‘care’ and in doing so, express ourselves accordingly.

Let’s face it- as grandparents, parents and grand friends, we want the very best for children. No one ever wants to see a child hurt, in pain, or emotionally tormented. For this reason, we know how important it is to make sure we teach our little ones about empathy and compassion, each of which go hand in hand.* Think of compassion as super-charged empathy; it prompts you to consider how the other person feels, but also inspires a genuine desire to help. Nurturing empathy and sympathy can affect others, allowing them to make deeper connections and better decisions. Leading by example is the obvious first step. Take the time to model compassion in your daily life even as an adult — grab one moment in the day and feel for others. Or, maybe do something as simple as:

–Bus your own table at the food court

–Take soup to a sick friend

–Shovel the sidewalk for an elderly neighbor

For children, tap into their emotional intelligence. Teaching children to articulate their own feelings enhances their ability to understand other people’s emotions. You can do this in seemingly simple situations. Remember the adage: ‘if the shoe was on the other foot’. Encouraging children to see an opposing viewpoint can build compassion, as well as diffuse anger when conflicts crop up.

Whatever you do, remember it only takes a moment to make a difference!

*Portions of this article excerpted from: Better Homes and Gardens, February 2014, p. 130.