Low levels of empathy in children have been linked to bullying, cheating, weak moral reasoning, and mental health issues. In a world where our overly competitive culture can contribute to a lack of empathy, it is crucial for parents, teachers, and caregivers to help children develop empathy and generosity toward others. Michele Borba’s book UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World provides valuable insights and strategies for nurturing empathy in children.
Developing a Moral Identity
Borba suggests that helping kids develop a moral identity is essential, rather than just praising them for good deeds. Allowing kids to have “do-overs” when they act insensitively can help them respond more empathically. Encouraging empathy through stories, play-acting, and movies can also help build empathy skills. Schools can further support this development through programs like Playworks and Jigsaw.
Supporting Mental Health During Challenging Times
The Covid-crisis has increased anxiety and depression four-fold across the world, impacting over 10% of the global population. More than 90% of school children have been confined at home for the past six months due to the pandemic. Children need to build skills to cope with stressors, especially during these challenging times. Parents play an important role in helping nurture skills of resilience in their children.
Calming Strategies and Emotional Expression
Understanding and expressing emotions helps children grow and thrive. Calming strategies are essential for healthy brain development. Building strong, healthy relationships is a skill that takes practice, and children should be given tools and coping skills to overcome challenges. Tantrums can be difficult for both kids and parents, but there are ways to cope with them.
Integrating Character Education, Social-Emotional Learning, and Mindfulness
Educators can use character education to help students identify and practice virtues such as respect, responsibility, empathy, and kindness in their daily lives. Social-emotional learning (SEL) provides students with the skills they need to cultivate positive relationships, manage their emotions, and make responsible decisions. Mindfulness can help students develop self-awareness, regulate their emotions, and cultivate compassion for themselves and others. By integrating character education, social-emotional learning, and mindfulness, educators can help create a kinder, more compassionate world.