Teaching Empathy

posted Feb 17, 2017, 11:06 AM by Heather Spray

Our word of the week this past week in elementary was Empathy. Empathy means,  understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present. There were a number of good quotes that helped students understand this word. Dennis Lehane said "Sympathy is easy. You have sympathy for starving children swatting at flies on the late-night commercials. Sympathy is easy because it come from a position of power. Empathy is getting down on your knees and looking someone else in the eye and realizing you could be them, and that all that separates you is luck." Also from Dan Waldschmidt, "If you find yourself saying, 'But I'm just being honest', chances are you've just been unkind. Honesty doesn't heal. Empathy does," Does this sound like what we hear and what we read on Face book. Our children learn their attitudes from the people and influences around them. We must be  kinder people with compassion and empathy.


According to Education Development Center,One of the most important social skills involved in bullying prevention is empathy––understanding and responding with caring to what others think and feel. Children are less likely to hurt and more likely to help someone if they can imagine themselves in that person’s place and can share that person’s thoughts and feelings.

There are many ways we can work to promote empathy, ranging from our everyday interactions with children to more in-depth activities. We can talk about empathy and kindness, or other important values, discuss what these values mean, and set clear expectations — suggesting our children, for example, to help out kids on the playground who are isolated. But we should remember that what we say means very little if we don’t practice what we preach. Children are taking note of our behaviors — the way we talk to others and the subtle messages we send. Be sure to model kindness and respect in your own interactions and your children will be much more likely to follow suit. We can also give children opportunities to practice empathy and engage in the habit of caring for others. Whether at home or in the classroom, involve children in making plans or solving conflicts — encourage them to reflect on the perspectives of others.

Our example is the most important path to compassion and empathy. Children model what they see.