Friday, August 6, 2010

how do I teach kids about empathy?

Can we teach empathy to our kids? This sounds a bit strange, especially if we think of empathy as a talent or as something we either have or lack. But did you know that research suggests that empathy is a complex phenomenon involving several component skills?

Components of Empathy:
*A sense of self-awareness and the ability to distinguish my own feelings from the feelings of others.
*Taking another person’s perspective  (“putting myself in another person’s shoes”).
*Being able to regulate my own emotional responses.

Emotions Flash Cards
These skills might seem like standard-issue adult social skills, and they surely are. But even us big folks have trouble managing some of our own emotions. This can lead to hesitation or confusion on how to manage the skills of others. Empathy may not necessarily be something we have or lack, most likely it develops in degrees. One thing is for sure, we can always develop stronger empathetic skills.
I use picture flash cards that show faces with a broad spectrum of emotions and simply ask the children how they think this person is feeling...why? Do your remember a time you have felt that way? Very young children are very open with sharing personal stories. I often tell children my own life lessons of how I felt during certain situations at their age.
Talking to our kids about what we see through out the day; how it makes us feel and why, really help children to develop a s sense of awareness towards others.

What kinds of ways or scenarios could you use to teach or show empathy?


Theresa Milstein said...

There are a few books I use that teach about moods or caring about others that I've used.

I like the flash cards idea. Jamie Lee Curtis's Today I Feel Silly is good because it talks about emotions and has a facial expression wheel in the back.

Barbra Stephens said...

I've Jamie Lee Curtiss's Book, Hey thanks for recommending it. There really aren't a lot of books out there that have messages like this young children can really comprehend. Hey, maybe you can write one..