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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13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do

Raising mentally strong kids who are equipped to take on real-world challenges requires parents to give up the unhealthy — yet popular — parenting practices that are robbing kids of mental strength.

Of course, helping kids build mental muscle isn’t easy — it requires parents to be mentally strong as well. Watching kids struggle, pushing them to face their fears, and holding them accountable for their mistakes is tough. But those are the types of experiences kids need to reach their greatest potential.

Parents who train their children’s brains for a life of meaning, happiness, and success, avoid these 13 things:

1. They Don’t Condone A Victim Mentality

Getting cut from the soccer team or failing a class doesn’t make your child a victim. Rejection, failure, and unfairness are part of life. Rather than allow kids to host pity parties or exaggerate their misfortune, mentally strong parents encourage their children to turn their struggles into strength. They help them identify ways in which they can take positive action, despite their circumstances.

2. They Don’t Parent Out Of Guilt

Guilty feelings can lead to a long list of unhealthy parenting strategies — like giving in to your child after you’ve said no or overindulging your child on the holidays. Mentally strong parents know that although guilt is uncomfortable, it’s tolerable. They refuse to let their guilty feelings get in the way of making wise choices.

3. They Don’t Make Their Child The Center Of The Universe

It can be tempting to make your life revolve around your child. But kids who think they’re the center of the universe grow up to be self-absorbed and entitled. Mentally strong parents teach their kids to focus on what they have to offer the world — rather than what they’re owed.

4. They Don’t Allow Fear To Dictate Their Choices

Keeping your child inside a protective bubble could spare you a lot of anxiety. But keeping kids too safe stunts their development. Mentally strong parents view themselves as guides, not protectors. They allow their kids to go out into the world and experience life, even when it’s scary to let go.

5. They Don’t Give Their Child Power Over Them

Kids who dictate what the family is going to eat for dinner, or those who orchestrate how to spend their weekends, have too much power.  Becoming more like an equal — or even the boss — isn’t healthy for kids. Mentally strong parents empower kids to make appropriate choices while maintaining a clear hierarchy.

6. They Don’t Expect Perfection

High expectations are healthy, but expecting too much from kids will backfire. Mentally strong parents recognize that their kids are not going to excel at everything they do. Rather than push their kids to be better than everyone else, they focus on helping them become the best versions of themselves.

7. They Don’t Let Their Child Avoid Responsibility

You won’t catch a mentally strong parent saying things like, “I don’t want to burden my kids with chores. Kids should just be kids.” They expect children to pitch in and learn the skills they need to become responsible citizens. They proactively teach their kids to take responsibility for their choices and they assign them age-appropriate duties.

8. They Don’t Shield Their Child From Pain

It’s tough to watch kids struggle with hurt feelings or anxiety. But, kids need practice and first-hand experience tolerating discomfort. Mentally strong parents provide their kids with the support and help they need coping with pain so their kids can gain confidence in their ability to deal with whatever hardships life throws their way.

9. They Don’t Feel Responsible For Their Child’s Emotions

It can be tempting to cheer your kids up when they’re sad or calm them down when they’re angry. But, regulating your kids’ emotions for them prevents them from gaining social and emotional skills. Mentally strong parents teach their children how to be responsible for their own emotions so they don’t depend on others to do it for them.

10. They Don’t Prevent Their Child From Making Mistakes

Whether your child gets a few questions wrong on his math homework or he forgets to pack his cleats for soccer practice, mistakes can be life’s greatest teacher. Mentally strong parents let their kids mess up — and they allow them to face the natural consequences of their actions.

11. They Don’t Confuse Discipline With Punishment

Punishment is about making kids suffer for their wrongdoing. Discipline is about teaching them how to do better in the future. And while mentally strong parents do give out consequences, their ultimate goal is to teach kids to develop the self-discipline they’ll need to make better choices down the road.

12. They Don’t Take Shortcuts To Avoid Discomfort

Giving in when a child whines or doing your kids’ chores for them, is fast and easy. But, those shortcuts teach kids unhealthy habits. It takes mental strength to tolerate discomfort and avoid those tempting shortcuts.

13. They Don’t Lose Sight Of Their Values

In today’s fast-paced world it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day business of homework, chores, and sports practices. Those hectic schedules — combined with the pressure to look like parent of the year on social media —cause many people to lose sight of what’s really important in life. Mentally strong parents know their values and they ensure their family lives according to them.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the international bestselling author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do and 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do. …

Source: 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do

How Technology Can Help Not Hurt Family Connections – Julia Freeland Fisher

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Between headlines about children’s ballooning screen time to growing concerns about the costs of distracted parenting, it’s easy to scapegoat technology for troubling family dynamics. The warm glow of a touch screen threatens to pull children and adults alike from investing in caring and face-to-face connections. In 2018, good parenting and technology don’t seem to mix.

But what if technology could start to prompt conversations that parents and children otherwise struggle to initiate? And more importantly, what if technology opened up time for more and better face-to-face interactions to take root? Luckily, edtech entrepreneurs are beginning to explore these possibilities.

Emerging platforms are starting to do what one founder, Josh Schacter (of the app CommunityShare), calls “going online to go offline.” In other words, although tools may require some online interactions and infrastructure, they ultimately aim to choreograph connections that can blossom offline.

One such tool is PowerMyLearning, which is breaking new ground in helping triangulate teacher-student-family connections and engaging parents actively in their children’s homework. I sat down with the organization’s CEO and Co-Founder, Elisabeth Stock, to learn more.

Julia: How does PowerMyLearning strengthen the relationship between schools and families? How is it different from traditional approaches to family engagement?

Elisabeth: At PowerMyLearning, we believe that students are most successful when supported by a triangle of strong learning relationships between students, teachers, and families. If you ask an adult, “What is the education system?” they’ll usually respond, “Well, there is the superintendent, the principals, the teachers union, and so on.”

But if you ask a student, they’ll say, “Oh that’s easy, it’s my teachers and family.”

PowerMyLearning ensures students, teachers, and families can operate as a system, with everyone rowing in the same direction, by transforming teaching and family engagement in schools and districts nationwide. Our work includes innovative coaching and workshops, and our digital platform, PowerMyLearning Connect.

PowerMyLearning’s Family Playlists are a great example of work we do to strengthen the triangle. These playlists are interactive homework assignments through which students practice a set of learning activities and then teach them to a family partner, usually a parent, who then provides feedback to the teacher about the experience (like how well the child understood or explained the lesson). Family Playlists differ from traditional approaches to family engagement in three ways:

First, Family Playlists leverage the type of family engagement that has the most impact on academic achievement: families supporting their children’s learning at home. Second, Family Playlists put families in the role of teammate and supporter.

Traditional family engagement efforts put families in the role of enforcer (“The parent portal shows that you haven’t turned your math homework yet – why not?”). Ellen Flanagan, a principal at one of our partner schools in New York City, said, “Our teachers love Family Playlists. They shift the homework dynamic from compliance to engagement and students learn the material better.”

Third, Family Playlists make family engagement measurable because teachers and principals can easily track family participation throughout the school year, which means family engagement can be improved. For students without an engaged family member, schools can help identify a supportive and caring adult outside the classroom to help with their learning.

Julia: Do you also see shifts in students’ relationships with their own families resulting from your approach over time as well?

Elisabeth: We definitely see a shift in students’ relationships with their own families over time. Usually, an after-school conversation goes something like: “What did you do in school today?” “Nothing.”  “What did you learn?” “Nothing.”

Family Playlists completely change that dynamic. Parents are excited to have the opportunity to sit down with their kids and understand what they are learning. Bilingual parents, in particular, are engaged in a way that they never were before. One mother from one of our schools this year, said: “It’s taken me back to my school days.

My child understanding factors has helped me understand. It’s also helped my child improve and enjoy doing school work, in and out of school. Parents and children can actually vibe and communicate a lot more with each other. I just want to give you guys a huge (thumbs up emoji) for such a great invention.”

Working with partner schools implementing Family Playlists, we have found that students were not only teaching academic concepts to their families, they were also teaching socio-emotional learning competencies like persisting when struggling and keeping a growth mindset about learning.

It’s hard work for students to teach their parents—some even say they take away their parent’s phones to keep them on task. However, the students lean in to the struggle because they feel confident teaching their parents something they don’t know.

From interviews with the kids, we also saw that trust and attachment were powerful byproducts of Family Playlists. One student, Binta, said her mother trusts her more because she’s now directly involved in her learning. She said, “Family Playlists make our bond better because we interact more.

We have more fun times than we normally do. My mom used to tell me every day to study and go over my notes. Now, she trusts me and knows how well I’m doing. She likes to listen to me explain what I’m learning.”

Julia: There’s a technology infrastructure–the PowerMyLearning Connect platform–behind your model. Where is that technology facilitating online connections and where is it coordinating offline interactions? How do you think about the right balance between online and offline teacher-family-student connections to best support student success?

Elisabeth: We have done a lot of thinking about how Family Playlists can facilitate a balance of both online and offline interactions to best support student success.

We use online interactions when supporting the connection between teachers and families. Online enables them to interact comfortably (in their own language) and asynchronously (to accommodate schedules). For example, when a teacher assigns the playlist, family partners receive a text in their home language with the due date and a link to the full Family Playlist.

Once students have finished the teaching portion, the family partners can use their phone to send a photo of their work and/or themselves (who doesn’t like taking selfies?) to the teacher, along with feedback on how well their child understood the concept. The photos bring the teacher “inside” their home and helps provide a clearer understanding of their child and home context.

We use offline interactions during the portion of the Family Playlist when the students teach their family partner. For example, when teaching coordinate plane, students work with their family partner on creating a map of their neighborhood together. They plot their home at the origin and then graph the coordinates of important locations nearby.

We go offline for these teaching moments because we want the students and family partners to be present for each other: we want them to look at each other, touch real-world items around their home and have a real conversation.

The idea that face-to-face interactions facilitate teachable moments ties closely with recent studies showing that our cell phones can hurt our close relationships when we are in the same room or at the same dinner table; in those moments, interacting without screens fosters closeness, connectedness, interpersonal trust, and perceptions of empathy—the building-blocks of relationships.

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