Kindful Kids Circle: Empathy Begins At Home
Posted by Trishna Shah on May 12, 2019
Following our first two Kindful Kids Circles last year on kindness and gratitude, we recently hosted our third Kindful Kids Circle in London on Sunday, April 28th, when around 30 parents and children came together to explore the theme "Empathy Begins at Home". It was an amazing experience to collaborate with two mothers, Ankita and Sonal, who have come to previous circles, as we put our hearts together to design this entire circle completely from scratch including each activity, which was a very involved process :) The ripples of this true labour of love spirit were seen in how beautifully the circle unfolded and the depth of reflections shared and also to hear about how it was such a meaningful the experience for each family who participated and took away many ideas on how they can cultivate more empathy at home.
Collective Learning Journey on Empathy....
Our circle opened with a round of introductions where we also shared how we are feeling right now, to get into the spirit of exploring emotions and empathy :) After our circle of introductions, I shared a few slides that helped us to reflect on what empathy means, what it looks like and sounds like and how we can practice more empathy towards each other. As we watched the video, Take Care of Each Other, it helped to remind us of how we can show empathy in so many different situations by leading with our hearts and seeing things from other people's perspectives.
Sonal led us through a fun emotion charades game, where we had a chance to guess which emotion our lovely grown-up and kid volunteers were acting out :) Such a wonderful reminder about how much we can learn about each other's emotions by taking the time and making the effort to tune into facial expressions and body language, which is becoming a lost skill with changing times of virtual communication.
Next up, Ankita led us through a pass the parcel game she had created in which she first shared a story about a boy named Ted and the group collectively came up with words to describe Ted based on that first part of the story. As the parcel went around and stopped at a new child, they read out load one more part of Ted's story, which we didn't know from the initial reading, offering us more insight into some of the challenges he is going through in life and how this might be contributing to some of his behaviour. After all of the prompts had been read and a little puppet version of Ted was found at the centre of the parcel :), the group revisited the initial list of words they had come up with to describe Ted to see if all of that still accurately reflected how we felt about him based on all of the additional information we now knew.
It was so interesting to watch our own mind's change, as we learned a bit more about Ted, who at first we felt was cheeky, naughty and selfish. As each layer of the pass the parcel was peeled open and a new part of the story was revealed, we had the opportunity to connect with Ted more deeply and collectively everyone responded with much more empathy and understanding and many of the descriptive words were changed about him. This process offered us much insight into how our minds can be quick to judge a person or situation without fully knowing what someone's circumstances may be and offered us an invitation to be more open-hearted, listen deeply and show empathy towards everyone we meet.
Transforming Inspiration to Action...
Following a 10-minute fruit and stretch break, the children helped us to resettle into the present moment by leading us through collective silence. They circled up around the meditation bell and took turns gently ringing it, one by one, waiting each time until the previous bell had quietened and following their breath as it traveled in and out from their nose. To prepare us for the high energy needed for the second half of the circle where we would be doing role plays, Aman, Ankita's 10-year-old son, led us through a fun dance energiser where we all mimicked his moves! :)
It was now time to put into action all that we had learned in the first half of the circle by doing role plays! To get everyone's creative juices flowing, Ankita's family performed a lovely sample role play, which had us all laughing, and gave us the confidence to give it a go ourselves. As all of the parents and kids split into six smaller groups based on the age ranges of the children, each group had the opportunity to read out loud a short story of a typical situation that happens in families and how it is often handled in a non-empathetic way when we aren't being fully present. Each group had a unique story which the children in their group could relate to based on their ages, and following the reading we had a chance to reflect on seed questions relating to our particular situation. We went around in a circle and shared how different characters may have been feeling and what they could have each done differently to show more empathy towards each other.
And then came the real test, when the rubber hit the road -- we all had a chance to enact our skits with all of the characters showing empathy towards each other. However, there was a fun twist -- in the skits, the parents had to play the children and the children had to play the parents to truly experience what it felt like to walk in someone else's shoes in your own family! :) Each group started by sharing the original story from their guide sheet with the audience and introducing their characters, which was so cute as of course the kids were being grown-ups and parents were little kids :) Each group performed fabulous skits showing incredible thoughtfulness and empathy in action! It was amazing to see the wonderful energy in the skits, to see the children so effectively communicate how parents can show more empathy and to see the parents understand what it's like to be their kids at times :) This was most definitely the highlight of the entire afternoon! You can watch short videos of each skit at the end of this album to join in the fun :)
"Grateful for it all..."
As we ended our circle singing along to Nimo's "Grateful" song with big smiles, I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of gratitude to everyone for sharing their families with the circle on that Saturday afternoon. We learned so much from each other and collectively deepened our intention to live life with more empathy. We hope you enjoy having a look through the photo highlights of our day together - Kindful Kids Circle - Empathy Begins at Home -- which also contains video clips of the wonderful skits from each group towards the end of the album!
Everyone was invited to bring along a book or two for parents or kids that has inspired their journey to live life with more empathy to pay forward to fellow participants at the circle. We also paid forward bookmarks, which I had received as a gift from dear friends from Japan, who personally gifted them to friends in California last month -- what a journey! Each bookmark is handmade with love by volunteers, who are part of a community in Japan who prays for peace in every part of the world and in our own hearts -- so beautiful! We hope they spread peace in the hearts of the children who took one home :)
Thank you to Sonal and Ankita, who put in so much hard work behind the scenes, teaming up with me to brainstorm for this Kindful Kids Circle right from coming up with a theme, to developing ideas for the various activities, to helping to write the scripts for the role plays and bringing food offerings for the refreshments. It's such a gift to have parents like them in the community to co-create such gatherings with!
Stay tuned for the next Kindful Kids Circle in coming months :)