How To Teach Children Empathy

Does your child have empathy? Or should I ask, do you have empathy? One of the best ways to teach empathy is by modeling it for your child. If you show your child how to be empathetic with your actions, they will learn from you. But teaching empathy goes beyond being a positive role model for your child.

What is Empathy and Why It’s Important

Empathy is such an important virtue to possess in life. When you have empathy, you are able to actively value another person’s perspective and respond with care and concern. Empathy is about having compassion and having the ability to envision how someone else is feeling in a particular situation and responding with understanding. It’s something that parents can nurture in their child’s lives as they grow and mature but it’s never too early to start! Some people are born empathetic and it comes naturally for them. But not all people have empathy and it can be a complex skill that some people need to mindfully learn and practice.

Who Struggles With Empathy

The more egocentric a person is, the harder it is for them to be empathetic. That being said, toddlers and teenagers will have the hardest time having and showing empathy to others. Also, if a child doesn’t know a multitude of emotions and or isn’t able to freely express emotions in their home, they may have a more difficult time being empathetic to others. Children on the Autism Spectrum, for example, also have a challenging time showing compassion, empathy, and effectively having perspective taking with others.

How Parents Can Cultivate Empathy With Their Children

Play it Out

Children love to play and play is necessary for them to learn and make sense of their world and various skills on how to function in their world. So I suggest, getting a box of bandages and have your child nurse their doll or stuffed animal and help them “feel better” by taking care of them. This will help children notice when friends are hurt and want to help them and take care of them. 

Practice and Define Emotions

Children need to know emotions before they can express them and understand how others are feeling. So I suggest playing an emotion game where you make a face and your child has to name the emotion you are feeling. Then, your child makes the same face and describes a time when they felt that emotion.

Model Empathy

If your child gets hurt or gets a bad grade, try not to invalidate them or dismiss them by just saying “it’s ok” but instead model what it’s like to show empathy. You can say, “How does this grade make you feel?” and “What can I do to help support you?” and “What can I do to help you feel better?” If your child is willing to listen, you can name them their strengths and encourage them to keep trying to get a better grade next time. 

Take Another Perspective

Talk about how someone feels in a particular situation that you see on television or in real life and ask your child,  “How must they feel?” Once you establish how the other person feels, you can talk about what that person can do the next time to act differently with more empathy. You can also teach your child to initiate asking others “how are you feeling today” or “how are you doing today” but if they have trouble initiating it, teach them to respond this way to someone asking them first, to show them that you care about them. A conversation between a family member or a friend is about giving and receiving, listening and responding.

Prioritize Kindness and Inclusion

Kindness goes a long way. Teach your child to choose kindness and inclusion. Teach your child that if they see a child playing or eating lunch by themselves, have them initiate a conversation with that child and invite them to play or eat with them. If they see that a friend is hurt physically or emotionally, teach your child to ask them how they are feeling and how they can help.

Practice Opportunities

Practice doing something nice for a friend who is sick, hurt, or had a bad day. Your child can draw them a picture or make them a card or a craft and deliver it to their doorstep. If your child is older, they can send a text, email, or call their friend to check on them. 

Volunteer and Give

Have your child practice giving to others. Maybe they can volunteer at a local food bank or animal shelter. Maybe they can gather outgrown toys and give them to Salvation Army or Goodwill. Maybe they can save allowance money and buy some new toys to give to a local Children’s Hospital or Toys for Tots around the holidays. Or maybe they can draw pictures to give to individuals at a retirement center.

Host a Family Meeting

Schedule a family meeting in your home once a week. At the meeting, let everyone in the family have a turn speaking and sharing. This will provide your child the opportunity to practice listening to others and their feelings as well as have the opportunity to express themselves and their needs.

Reflect and Listen

It is important to teach children to listen to how others are feeling and then to reflect on how they are feeling. It is just as important to listen to how other’s are feeling, if not more, as to reflect on how they are feeling. Listening is a very important skill to learn and practice. If you don’t listen carefully to someone, you may miss understanding how they are really feeling and how to respond and reflect properly.  

Make a Repair

When a conflict arises, you can have your child practice making a repair. If they take a toy away from another child or a sibling, you can have your child reflect on how that made the other child feel and then follow up with asking your child what they can do differently next time and how they can make it better this time. This might mean a verbal apology, a written apology letter, an apology drawing, and even a hug.

 

By: Dr. Kim

 

Source: How To Teach Children Empathy

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Teaching Children About Digital Footprints and Online Reputations – Kathleen Morris

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Promoting Positivity, Not Fear

Traditionally, digital footprint resources tended to focus on the negatives and promoted a culture of fear. This isn’t helpful. Our students are generally heavy internet users and scare tactics are unlikely to make them want to disconnect completely. Nor would we want them to.

While we can’t be complacent, the message I like to promote is that we should protect and shape our digital footprints, and try to ensure they’re positive.

Encouraging students to avoid posting or doing anything online is not the answer.

As the Harley Davidson commercial famously said,

When you write the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.

When it comes to digital footprints we have some control.

But We’re Not Always In Control

Digital footprints are sometimes defined as active and passive. It’s important to remember that despite aiming to “hold the pen” and write our own story, this is not always going to be possible.

Images can be altered. Data is stored and accessed without our knowledge. Words can be misquoted. Intentions can be misread. Personal interactions can be shared. Individuals can be tagged without permission. We can’t assume we always have control.

So, what is the answer?

Perhaps as Seth Godin once said,

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The Weight Of Digital Footprints

Back in 2009 Chris Betcher said:

I can see a day in the not too distant future … where your ‘digital footprint’ will carry far more weight than anything you might include in a resume or CV.

Has that day come? Probably. But some people might not realise it.

Reports of colleges or employers relying on Google searches to help make judgements about applicants are nothing new. But maybe where the search used to focus on character judgements, there is now an additional expectation that a portfolio of work will be available?

Surely an archive of online work is going to begin carrying more weight than an outdated qualification or random personal reference?

What Should Be Shared?

One certainty is that young people need guidance navigating the online world, just like the offline world. Because of their age and limited life experience, it can be difficult for students to consider if what they’re happy to post online now is something they’ll still be happy with in 1/5/10/20 years.

There are certain things you can teach students to definitely avoid sharing online. One acronym I’ve always liked using is YAPPY (Your full name, Address, Phone number, Passwords, Your plans).

There are many grey areas beyond YAPPY though — sharing opinions, sharing information about others, deciding if content you create should have a public audience… the list goes on. Experience and conversation can be vital.

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Feel free to use the above visual on your blog if it would be helpful. Just link back to my site!

Beyond Students: What are Teachers and Parents Doing?

Have you ever cringed seeing a fellow teacher post a questionable photo or loaded opinion on social media? I have. Perhaps underestimating the importance of digital footprints is still a widespread problem.

Another scenario that I still believe is common is teachers not having a digital footprint at all. These issues are worrisome to me when thinking about the need for educators to be role models.

Nowadays, an individual’s digital footprint often starts being created before they are even born. Perhaps with a pregnancy announcement on social media followed by all sorts of childhood “firsts” broadcast for a online audience. What are the consequences of this? We can’t know for sure, but maybe more education, discussion, and awareness of digital footprints is required within the wider community.

Can our students assist with this task?

How To Teach Children About Digital Footprints

Digital footprints comes under the umbrella of digital citizenship. This used to be called cyber safety or internet safety, but the definition has broadened.

In Teaching Digital Citizenship: 10 Internet Safety Tips for Students, I suggested a four layered approach to covering digital citizenship.

The same approach could be useful for digital footprint education.

  1. INTEGRATION: Digital footprint education should be embedded into the curriculum in an ongoing and authentic way (e.g. through a classroom blogging program).
  2. STORYTELLING: Students should be presented with “real-life” scenarios to consider, discuss, and learn from.
  3. STRATEGIES: Practical strategies should be taught so students build a toolkit of actionable ideas and skills.
  4. COMMUNITY: Messages from parents and educators should overlap and there should be ongoing communication.

Read more about this model.

Conversations around digital footprints should be on the agenda from an early age and this is a topic for the whole community. The work of one teacher is not enough.

10 Things Young People Need To Know About Digital Footprints

I’ve summarised these key points in a poster below which you’re welcome to use in your classroom.

  1. When you visit websites, search, and interact online, a trail of information is left behind.
  2. Elements of your digital footprints can be searched or shared.
  3. Digital footprints can be helpful or harmful to reputations both now and in the future.
  4. Once online, things can exist forever (even if deleted).
  5. You should always think before you post online.
  6. Personal information or opinions sent to one person can be shared with a larger audience.
  7. Googling yourself can be a good habit to get into (or try a search engine like Pipl).
  8. Old or inactive accounts should be disabled or deleted.
  9. You should keep certain personal details private and you can control the privacy settings on many of your online accounts.
  10. We need to be mindful of the digital footprints of others too (e.g. Ask before tagging others in photos).

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