How Can We Teach Children Empathy?

5 Oct

empathy.pngEmpathy, in my humble opinion, is one of those things that is vital to a caring, respectful and well-balanced individual.  Empathy, or “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” is severely lacking in a world where shooting unarmed individuals, massive terrorist attacks and outright violence is astoundingly common. (Google) Maybe it’s partly because of the world we live in – where social media means world news is at your finger tips and media outlets are reporting news on a 24/7 basis. That being said, we need to teach children now to celebrate differences, to share their feelings and to be empathetic.

So how can we teach children to be empathetic to family and friends, to the people in their community and to the people in the world around them?  A lot of teaching can be done at home with adults, siblings, relatives, and pets, while teachers and schools can create communities of caring to encourage children to be empathetic to their classmates, teachers, and school staff.  And a lot of teaching, discussing and understanding can come from reading stories.  Books teach children about themselves, but also gives children the opportunity to look at the world from another perspective.

Take a look at what Melissa from Imagination Soup guest posted at All the Wonders about empathy.  And if you want an author’s perspective, check out what Sara Pennypacker has to say about her book, Pax on Brightly.  And your resources don’t have to stop there – the Washington Post provides a list of 24 books from Preschool through High School that show kindness an empathy.  Although I haven’t gotten a chance to put together my list of books about empathy, I have created a great list of 25 books with characters set outside the United States to give a more global perspective to kids, so you can definitely check that out as well.

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2 Responses to “How Can We Teach Children Empathy?”

  1. Suraj Sehgal October 5, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    I agree! Empathy is so incredibly important, especially in this day and age. It’s so essential to make sure that all of us, including our children, are being provided opportunities to cultivate that emotional intelligence and ability to understand those who are different. I’m not completely familiar with all the books that you’ve listed, however, in my own experience, I’ve noticed that there are three main factors that can contribute heavily to developing empathy – understanding one’s self, interacting and listening to others (preferably in person), and developing humility. For me, understanding myself and developing humility have tended to go hand in hand. Practicing heartfulness has especially helped me in accepting myself and working to improve myself from a place of positivity rather than insecurity. Interacting and listening are also really important, given our current era where technology pervades all communication. Simple things like teaching our children and setting an example by putting aside our phones and other distractions when engaging in a conversation can help to encourage active listening and ulimately foster more empathy.

    • literacious October 5, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment, I completely agree!

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