Real Talk     Hot Topics     Teen Health    

Real Talk: Talking with teens about kindness - a mom's perspective



A mom talks about fostering kindness in teens

A mom talks about fostering kindness in teens


Get another perspective. Read a professional's answer to the same question.

The other day, my daughter and I saw a kindness wall at the end of local mall. It was filled with cards of ideas on how to be kind to others around the holidays, including things like donating to the local food pantry, sending a care package to a solider and letting someone go in front of you in line. As my daughter and I scoured the wall for the card we wanted, my daughter, Kit said I’d taught her to do these already and that it was hard to find a new one.

She had no idea I was working on a story about kindness, but there it was—how do you prepare teens to be kind in this world? Just by doing.

Our children watch us all the time. They see whether we smile at others and try to give people the benefit of the doubt on a tough day. They see us buy a gift for Toys for Tots or food for the food pantry. They also see us lose our cool in traffic and talk about the people in our lives.

If we handle the majority of situations in our lives with kindness, our kids learn how to do that too. Once, when I was driving with my daughter, someone cut her off.

“I hope you have a totally average day,” my daughter, Charlotte, said to the driver in reaction to the incident. I laughed. “A totally average day” is a kind way to be upset. I wish I had thought of that. My daughter found a way to react and remain on the side of kindness.

Kindness is contagious in the best way possible. On Thanksgiving, my daughters needed to buy something at our local CVS. When they returned, they beamed with happiness. They’d asked the cashier what his favorite candy bar was and then bought it for him. They told him they wanted to thank him for working on Thanksgiving. He told them it made his day. Such a simple gesture, but a kindness that made someone else feel noticed and appreciated. They said he was so happy with the next customer—contagious kindness.

READ MORE: Kindness in Dutchess County

When my children were little, one of our cousins spent several holidays in the hospital. We saw video and pictures of how happy he was when Santa visited his hospital bed and others came around caroling. My children asked how we could help our local hospital the next holiday season. They saw how important kindness was for their cousin and wanted to do the same thing for someone else.

Kindness is also often learned when children see what happens when people are not kind. My son has autism. When he was younger and had fewer social skills, people were not always kind to him. His sisters became his champions. They helped him navigate the playgrounds and parties. They found ways to keep his environment a little quieter; a little more manageable. They sometimes spoke to potential friends for him to break a barrier.

His sisters also became champions of others when they saw that someone was not being treated right. Each time I observed one of these acts of kindness, I talked with my children about it later. I let them know that I saw their kindness. I l told them how important it was that they did this. I talked about how those acts of kindness can ripple and make other people pause and be kind in the future.

My son, Peter, who has become more social and verbal in recent years, has also been known to step in for friends who can’t talk as much for themselves. He tells me it is because people helped him and he wants to help.

The kindness comes full circle. As I watch my teens do these simple acts of kindness, I want to be like them. I want to make sure I take the moment, I share the smile, I think of another person first. The ripples continue.

Patrice Athanasidy, who lives with her family in Westchester, has written for numerous publications in the tri-state area. She is an adjunct instructor at Manhattan College in the communication department.



More Real Talk


  • Everything you need to know about student loans

    Traditional ways of paying for college aren't working

    More American families are borrowing for college. At the same time, merit aid and the use of personal income and savings i falling. read more »
  • 3 ways people of all ages can make the most of International Youth Day

    Celebrate youth activists and combat ageism

    August 12 is International Youth Day, a United Nations effort to celebrate youth activists, combat ageism and help bridge gaps between generations working toward the same change. read more »
  • 4 ways to get involved this global volunteer month

    It's a good time to get in on the action

    Global Volunteer Month, celebrated throughout April, is a time to recognize people who actively support their communities through volunteerism and active civic engagement. It’s also a time to get in on the action. However, if you’re like many people, you may not know where to begin. read more »
  • USC quarterback Caleb Williams supports young adults' mental health

    The athlete teams up with national "Seize the Awkward" Campaign

    In Collaboration with the Ad Council, AFSP, The Jed Foundation, Caleb Cares Foundation & USC, a new student-produced Public Service Advertisement encourages young adults to check in on their friends. read more »
  • "I Have The Right To" launches nationwide pledge

    Offering support to students and survivors of sexual assault

    In an exciting announcement and a first for the celebrated organization, I Have The Right To launches a nationwide pledge to ensure all students receive an education free from sexual assault. read more »
  • Proper medication use can help tobacco users overcome nicotine addiction

    The New York State Smokers' Quitline can help you kick the habit

    The New York State Smokers' Quitline (Quitline) reminds New York State residents that cigarettes and vape products are highly addictive. read more »
  • Weeklong FAIR Film Festival 2022

    The Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR) Hosts a Film Screening Plus Q&A

    The Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR) will kick off the FAIR Film Festival 2022 with an in-person screening of the documentary film I Am A Victor plus a selection of short films on Sunday, June 12 at 1:00pm EDT at Caveat on the lower east side in Manhattan. read more »
  • Resources for LGBTQ youth

    Positive online places for your child

    LGBTQ youth are more likely to be bullied and harm themselves because of it. read more »
  • How to prevent cyberbullying with technology

    Who is at risk and what you can do

    Cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent among children and teens, as young people now spend more time on phones, computers and digital devices. About 6 in 10 teens have been bullied or harassed online, according to Pew Research Center. read more »
  • Teenage Period Cramps

    How much pain alerts to medical conditions?

    More often than not prevailing period stigma holds adolescents back from expressing concerns about severe menstrual pains. Experts say that debilitating cramps are not normal and might be caused by underlying medical problems like endometriosis. read more »