Let’s Teach…Compassion

Please welcome ABIGAIL LEVRINI, PHD with this Guest Post



Let’s Teach…compassion.

Greetings, moms (and dads!) Welcome to my blog series called “Let’s Teach”. Each entry will focus on real life examples to illustrate the importance of lessons from the field of psychology, like increasing our own and our children’s’ self-esteem, understanding, or compassion for others.
Today, let’s teach…compassion.
Whether you realize it or not, nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer with a mental illness. Your children attend school with peers struggling with a variety of issues from ADHD and learning disorders, to depression or anxiety. You work with these people. They’re your neighbors, your mailman, or your Publix cashier. They might even be you. Mental illness is, just like physical illness, a normal part of human life.
One common thread to many of these diagnoses, is the effect they have on an important American ideal – “motivation”. Simply put, they zap it. And sadly, most people on the outside have little understanding or tolerance for the fact that the inability to power through mental illness isn’t a choice. The idea that makes my heart sink the most when it comes to individuals with mental health diagnoses like ADHD, depression, or other disorders that often affect one’s motivation is that people could overcome their problems if they just mustered up enough “willpower”. Ugh. Even with all of our knowledge, I continuously hear reports from parents, teachers, spouses…even my clients themselves…saying, “They have done it before so I know they can if they really  want to.”

If only it were that simple. Remember the commercial from the 2000s for one of the early depression meds where the little rock is being followed around by the gloomy rain cloud? Well, picture that rock as a brain, and that cloud as the disorder. That is what it is like for people suffering. Just like a cloud, some areas are denser than others, and there are even parts where you can almost see the sun shining through. These are the moments when the affected person can motivate him or her self enough to attend to their responsibilities. There are good days and bad days. And the bad days have nothing to do with laziness or lack of willpower.

One thing that I think makes it hard for people to really get this…I mean truly get it…is that individuals with mental health disorders don’t have the benefit of others seeing their cloud. As difficult as I am sure life is for someone with a more visible handicap, one thing they have in their favor is the fact that it is visible. When we see someone approaching an entrance on crutches, we hold the door for them (at least we  should). On the other hand, if we smile politely at someone who is depressed and they frown and avert their eyes, we assume they are rude and maybe mumble something under our breath. If an ADHD child who turned their homework in the day before doesn’t the following day, we assume he is being defiant.  Children make fun of the “weird” kid struggling with Autism or social skills deficits causing him to become more angry and defiant…and we have all seen in the news where this can so often lead.

I admit I am guilty of this too. I automatically have sympathy and respect for any client that walks into my office, but in my daily life I make assumptions about people’s character flaws when I really have no idea what is going on under the surface. It’s human nature.

So please, try and take a step back now and then when you feel yourself getting impatient with a loved one or stranger who appears to be rude, defiant, or angry. They may be suffering more than you will ever know, and most likely feel ten times the negative feelings toward themselves that you feel. Let’s do better for our community and our children’s futures. Take solace and celebrate the fact that you are mentally healthy and spread those positive feelings around, and  ‘let’s teach’ our children to do the same.

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ABIGAIL LEVRINI, PHD is a licensed clinical psychologist, ADHD specialist, renowned speaker, and bestselling author.  Dr. Levrini has published numerous scientific articles on ADHD and presents her coaching model in  professional settings throughout the country. Dr. Levrini can be found throughout the media on WebMD, The Washington  Post, NAMI, APA, PsychCentral, and many other popular means of press. Dr.  Levrini’s first book is an American Psychological Association (APA) bestseller,  (“Succeeding with Adult ADHD: Daily Strategies to Help you Achieve Your  Goals and Manage Your Life”).  Her second book was published in June of 2015 and is titled, “ADHD Coaching: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals”. Dr. Levrini also stars in the American Psychological Association’s Therapy Video Series on  Adult ADHD  Treatment. Her practice, Psych Ed Connections (www.psychedconnections.com), has locations in Ponte Vedra, FL, Louisville, KY and throughout northern Virginia.
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I'm a mother of 2 who likes to get involved in too much! Besides writing here I started a non-profit, I'm on the PTO board, very active in my community and volunteer in the school. I enjoy music, reading, cooking, traveling and spending time with my family. We just adopted our 3rd cat and love them all!

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  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    I am not naturally compassionate, so I struggle with this. I do try hard, though.

  2. My son is a compassionate little boy and I’ve noticed lately that he gets even more emotional about people and certain things. I hope that he continues to see the good and feel for people (and that he doesn’t become so desensitized like many people I know.)

  3. Catherine S says:

    What a great post. I will try to keep this in mind when I am dealing with some of my customers.

  4. I love this so much. I think the world needs so much more compassion than it has in it right now.

  5. I’m often told I’m too compassionate (is that possible?) and I know my kids get it from me too. I think it’s so important to teach!

  6. This is a really good post. It is really important to remember that even mental illnesses are medical issues and need to be treated as such.

  7. Compassion is definitely something I have instilled in my children. My older daughter is a favorite of some of the special needs kids in her high school and always comes home with a smile when they come up and give her a hug.

  8. So many people lack compassion nowadays. This is a wonderful post to help us remember to show compassion to others.

  9. I will admit I often struggle with compassion myself and that cartoon kind of hit home. Thankfully my children are a totally different story and are quite emotional and caring.

  10. Debbie Denny says:

    I try to have more compassion. I have always tried to instill compassion in all my children and grandchildren.

  11. My husband and I take mental illness very seriously since there are relatives on both sides who struggle. There’s no shame in getting help for a broken bone, so let’s remove the stigma for getting other help.

  12. Ann Bacciaglia says:

    I have been teaching the kids to be compassionate their whole life. It is so important to remember to be compassionate. You never know when you can change someones whole day with just a smile.

  13. This is such a great post. Compassion is so important yet so many lack it.

  14. My mother raised me to be compassionate. I think she did very well. I like to think I am teaching kiddo the same.

  15. This is such a wonderful concept! Everyone could use a little more compassion!

  16. People are really bad at understanding themselves well enough to know when they need outside help! Some problems can’t be managed just by yourself!

  17. Ah good point about the visual. That adds a nice aspect to encourage empathy/compassion.

  18. I definitely think teaching compassion is really important. Not only do we teach it to our children through our words, but also through our actions.

  19. I agree compassion is so important. The world would be a better place if there was more compassion.

  20. What a fantastic post. I have a high level of compassion and empathy towards others and hope I am instilling that in my children …

  21. Compassion is so important to teach. Dealing with mental illness and just regular day to day stuff, the lack of compassion is really sad. Some people have to try a little harder to be compassionate but they are still capable of it.