The sooner the better
Empathy can be taught from an early age. Young preschoolers are very “me” centered, but it is not too early to teach kindness and compassion daily. Elementary school aged students can learn and should have the opportunity to practice in a school setting. Home is where learning begins. Parents often reach out to teachers on how to help their children at home. Parents should be encouraged to teach empathy at home with family members, especially siblings who test patience from the day we are born or as soon as they arrive. Modeling is a great way to teach empathy. “Your sister seems sad because she dropped her ice cream cone.” “Your little brother is sad because he was not tall enough to ride the roller coaster.”
Looking Beyond Self
Empathy involves looking past one’s own perspective in any given situation and understanding the needs and experiences of another person. We don’t want our children to be self-absorbed, caring less about others’ lives.
Most of our students attend elementary schools in mixed-ability classrooms. That means learning to work with advanced learners, typical learners, and children who have learning needs. Children can be taught to be kind and thoughtful with all other learners, even those who are different from self.
Tolerance, Acceptance, and Understanding
We want our children to grow up with recognition, acceptance, and understanding of others, because it has become a way of life and not for what they will receive in return.
I believe that our non-disabled son will tell you that growing up with a brother with autism was not easy, especially in the pre-school and elementary years. However, that experience, I believe has made him a kinder, more patient, and compassionate person, appreciating all people with differences.
How do children get better at anything? They practice. You don’t have to have a planned time to teach empathy. Just embed it in your daily activities. If you have the luxury of having circle time in the mornings as your school day is beginning, talk about empathy, and how it can be practiced throughout the day, especially at recess. Encourage your students to observe while playing on the playground and reach out to any child who may need some kindness.
Pause To Ponder!
Check out our free lesson you can use to teach your students empathy – coming to this blog soon! Language arts time is a great time to develop reading and writing skills, while also developing emotional intelligence. Enjoy!