Cultivating Empathy and Compassion in Children

April 06, 2019

Quote of the Week

"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." --Dalai Lama

13 Ways To Raise A Compassionate Child

"Empathy—the ability to understand and be sensitive to other people's feelings—helps us to be more deeply attached to our family, friends, and even strangers. "Empathy is probably the greatest single gift of our species," says Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., a senior fellow at the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, and the coauthor of Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential—and Endangered. "We wouldn't have been able to survive without creating relationships and groups that could function together."

Putting yourself in someone else's shoes is also a crucial building block for other caring emotions. "It's how we develop gratitude, hope, and compassion, which is the ability to act on your empathy," explains Christine Carter, Ph.D., a sociologist and happiness expert at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. One study there found that kids as young as 18 months could master a key component of empathy: the ability to tune in to people's emotions. By age 4, they move beyond making physical caring gestures and start to think about others' feelings in relation to their own. Many of these responses happen naturally, but you can make a more conscious effort to promote empathy-boosting experiences for your children." This week's featured article highlights practical tips for raising a truly caring child. [read article]

Reading Corner

Title: The Invisible Boy
By: Trudy Ludwig
Ages: 5-10 years

"A simple act of kindness can transform an invisible boy into a friend…  Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party . . . until, that is, a new kid comes to class.  When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine.  [...]  This gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish."  --Publishers

Be the Change

This week, play a game of "what would it be like to be someone else?"  With your child, use your imagination and put yourself in another person's shoes.  You could start off with role play about each other ("What does it feel like to be Mommy or Daddy? Or what does it feel like to be a 2nd grader?")  and share your thoughts with each other.  Then you can expand it out to other people you know or strangers.  This link from Operation Respect shares a similar activity, using the "Little Red Riding Hood" story as a starting point to see the same story from different points of view.