The first time I took my child to a rehabilitation center was the hardest. This video shows five benefits from teaching empathy to a child at a hospital.
Whether visiting a rehabilitation center or long-term care facility (often called a nursing home), a hospital environment will be both different and familiar to a child. While diapers and regimented feedings often occur in both, a first response to visiting a hospital can be one of aversion. Don’t despair. Humanity isn’t always baby powder fresh, but it is always refreshing when love comes shining through.
Teaching empathy to a child at a hospital turns the tables on the perception that care exists only for a child’s benefit. Multiple visits may be necessary for everyone to feel comfortable in a place where death sometimes seems lurking around every corner. Parents have a duty to demonstrate that those in need are not only the youngest but also the ill. At least five benefits come from teaching empathy to a child at a hospital:
Teaching empathy to a child shows hardship
A self-centered attitude dominates the life of a child because he or she has been coddled and encouraged in a way that creates both a sense of security and ease of life. Forced to reconcile the needs of someone who is in greater distress than him or herself, a child in a hospital confronts the pain, suffering and infirmity that exists for everyone. By showing hardship in this context, a child will ultimately learn that caring for others goes beyond children and extends to all life.
Teaching empathy to a child instills empowerment
Empower a child by showing how he or she can make a difference by nurturing the sick. While feeding and giving medicine to the sick is important, the simple transaction of a smile to the elderly or chronically ill is often received in a way that is different than anything outside a hospital or nursing home, a way that is more helpful than any modern medicines can offer. Children will feel empowered by helping the sick in this simple way.
To be more sympathetic and caring to everyone we meet in the world comes through an individual’s ability to feel empowered to make a difference.
Teaching empathy to a child teaches vulnerability
Children naturally perceive vulnerabilities in others, this fundamental sense empowering them in ways that are not always good. For instance, in competition children often exploit vulnerabilities for their own self-interest. A hospital or rehabilitation center nurtures the most vulnerable in our society and will show children that it is a fundamental duty for our society to interact with the helpless, assist the helpless and empower the helpless to find peace of mind and spirit that can help heal or nurture. By teaching vulnerability without exploiting it, hospitals are a valuable environment for parents who want to display the power of humanity.
Teaching empathy to a child for happiness
By confronting the reality that our world is one where all of us eventually become sick and vulnerable, we nurture children into being caring and sympathetic to all they meet while showing them the importance of good health and happiness. A hospital teaches empathy to a child through the experiences of others, the testament of those who are struggling with health and happiness. Happiness comes from many different places and exists in some of the hardest places. Showing children the hardships will make them appreciate life to its fullest.
How to get involved
For a guide to volunteering with seniors, Createthegood.org offers a variety of tips:
- Start Locally where seniors are in your own neighborhood
- Be a companion but don’t feel like you have to do more than provide company
- Learn to learn from the residents by discovering new passions and nurturing new skills for both the residents as well as yourself
For a guide to avoiding confusion with hospital patients, HospitalElderLifeProgram.org offers a few tips:
- Bring familiar objects from home such as family photos, a favorite blanket from their home or a favorite book
- Speak calm, reassuring tones and tell the patient where he is and why he is there
- Give instructions and state one fact or simple tasks at a time.
- Visit often