Teaching Children the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim (Visiting the Sick)

There comes a time in most everyone’s life when a visit to a sick friend or relative is required. Doing so exemplifies the mitzvah of bikur cholim (visiting the sick).

READ: Bear Feels Sick
Teaching Children Bikur Cholim (Visiting the Sick)PJ Library book Bear Feels Sick tells the story of woodland friends who all care for Bear while he is feeling under the weather.

Bear Feels Sick highlights the values associated with bikur cholim and shows the benefits friendly visits can bring the sick. It also shows how this value is reciprocal. Everyone gets sick at some point and could use some extra TLC from their friends.

Other Bikur Cholim-Related PJ Library Books

MAKE: Feel Better List
Indeed, the mitzvah of bikur cholim can be performed with children starting at an early age. Lisa Samick explains that the first step in teaching bikur cholim is to help a child understand what it means to “feel better.”

“The next time your child is recovering from a cold, engage them in a conversation about what kinds of things make them feel better. Brainstorm a list of “get-well strategies” that you can refer back to (and if you’d like, you can call it your ‘Bikur Cholim List’).”

Your young one can later use this list — or, at least, the understanding gained from it — in helping others to feel better.

DO: Visit friends 
Another sure-fire way to impress upon children the values of bikur cholim is to actually visit a friend who is ill.

Visiting the sick can bring with it a host of emotions. Rabbi Bradley Artson advises that “even as we feel grateful to those brave and loving people who came to visit us in our sickness, we still feel hesitant, awkward, and fearful when it comes to visiting the sick ourselves." 

For this reason Samick tells parents, “It will be important to prepare your child for what they might see. Be sure to have a conversation about what is going to happen before you go. Help them to understand that they may see, hear, or smell things that are unusual.”

And remember that children follow the lead of their parents. If you are brave, they will be brave, too.

WATCH: Video 
If you’re really looking to inspire a child to consider the mitzvah of bikur cholim, check out Shaboom!, a new animated series that helps kids do good. 

For more activity and story ideas, click here.