Nurturing kindness

This piece on nurturing kindness in our children comes originally from the Growing Together Newsletter which is produced in Lafayette Indiana – as you might figure out from the opening paragraph. The newsletter is distributed here by The Lifestart Foundation. We may not be dealing with the level of challenges facing America at the moment but nurturing kindness is always a good idea and could even make family life easier.

If you can’t say something nice …..

No matter where your opinions fall on the political spectrum, most of us are agreed that recently we have witnessed extraordinary instances of behaviour in adults that would have been enough to get you sent straight to time-out in the typical preschool. We could start with name-calling and go straight downhill from there. Assuming the adults involved are not about to change their life-habits, I think our only hope is to concentrate on what we can do to instill behaviours of kindness in the children we are raising now.

Becoming a kind person is definitely a key to the path towards happiness. For one thing, the habit
of kindness extends to ourselves; it is hard to be happy if you’re being unkind to yourself. Establishing clear guidelines for behaviours that demonstrate being a caring community member is a far more certain predictor of future success than are the good grades that seem so important to so many parents.

So how do we nurture the attributes of kindness and caring in our

First and foremost, parents must walk the walk. You know as well as I do that children learn more by  example than by any other way. Your kids love you and want to be like you. They need to see that you are a kind person. They need to see you address others respectfully, whether family,
friends or strangers, and no matter how your patience is tried.

There is no way that you can teach kindness when you are making angry gestures at someone, yelling at the representative on the phone, or treating servers rudely. The best side effect of walking the kindness walk for your kids is that you will yourself become a happier, nicer person as well, carrying far less stress in your daily encounters.

And then, talk the talk. When you are talking with teachers in your children’s presence, don’t ask only about school work, but inquire whether your kids are good community members. Not only does this demonstrate your value system to the teacher, but it also impresses the children about the importance of kindness to their family. Who knows what the ripple effect of this would be, as the teacher reflects on how the classroom supports developing prosocial skills.

Make it part of your family dialogue to discuss individuals’ actions and their motivations. As children
consider cause and effect, they come to understand the effects of caring and kindness in their interactions with others, as well as on their positive sense of self. A child who sees herself as kind
will modify her behaviours accordingly.

Expand your circle of concern.

As parents model community service, children become aware that their caring community can expand. Gently, parents help children move out of their comfort zone and learn empathy,
understanding that others may have vastly different experiences and needs.

Appreciate and pay attention to instances of kindness both small and large demonstrated by your kids, whether within your household or beyond. Such attention acts as positive reinforcement, strengthening prosocial tendencies. When we pay attention to acts of kindness, we are likely to
see them increase.

As with everything, this is a process of teaching over time, not just something we can pencil in on
the calendar for next Monday. But think of the impact if every parent concentrated on teaching kindness!





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        Short videos on the Importance of Play have recently launched which was a collaboration between North Central CFSN and Lifestart Services.   Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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