Cultivating Empathy

One of Seven Arrows’ core values is empathy. Merriam Webster’s definition of empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another, “ but when put into intentional practice, it means volumes more:

* it means being able to effectively collaborate with others to solve them;
* it means listening more than talking, in some cases;
* it means being able to take risks to benefit others’ wellbeing;
* it means being as good at listening to the ideas of others as articulating your own;
* it means being able to understand when to lead a team and when it’s best to follow as a team member.

Empathy is directly connected to ethical action, decision making and problem-solving. Developing connected children who view the world with compassionate and open minds leads to further happiness and children who are better equipped to grow socially, emotionally and cognitively. What are the various ways to teach children kindness and empathy?

From Atkins’ book, The Kindness Advantage:
“The best way to teach your child empathy is to be empathetic. Be open to the range of emotions your child expresses. Be aware of your reaction so that you do not impede their emotional response. Some feelings are comfortable and others uncomfortable, but all feelings are normal. You can help your child navigate the feelings they are having. Our emotional responses are an important part of what makes us human and connects us with others so that we can see the world through their eyes. That is empathy.”

What Can Parents Do:
* If you see a hurt bird, stop and talk to your child about how to help. You could call an animal rescue hotline. You might put the bird in a shoebox and take it to a veterinary office or animal hospital.
* When you’re watching a movie or TV show with your child, talk about how one of the characters might be feeling and how you would feel in that situation.
* A sibling or relative is playing in a music recital. Congratulate him and share his excitement for his accomplishment.
* If you’re taking time to talk to a friend about a challenging situation, explain to your child what you’re doing and why. You don’t have to share the details, but do let your child know that you’re listening to your friend and trying to help.

Excerpted from: Atkins, Dale, and Amanda Salzhauer. The Kindness Advantage: Cultivating Compassionate and Connected Children: Everyday Ideas for Raising Kids Who Care. Health Communications, Inc., 2018.