Parenting

Pinoy Parenting

Habagat Aftermath: 10 Ways to Teach our Kids Empathy

Are your kids capable of identifying with and understanding other people’s feelings? Here are a few tips for helping them do so.

giving handAs of this writing, the Philippines is still recovering from massive flooding brought about by heavy monsoon rains or habagat, which has left more than 90 people dead and affected 2.4 million families. It has been heartbreaking to see the devastation, yet also inspiring to see the heroic acts, big and small, of those who have come to the aid of the victims. Truly, now, more than ever, is a time for great empathy and social action.

When it comes to our children though, especially the younger ones, empathizing with others may not come as easily as we would hope it to. After all, how does one explain, “Put yourself in his / her shoes,” or “Imagine how that flood victim must feel,” to one’s kids, when they themselves are just starting to have a grasp on the concept of emotions, and are only beginning to name their own emotions and feelings?

Having said that though, we parents would do well to try our best to teach empathy to our children, no matter how young they may be, especially if we consider a study done in recent years by the University of Michigan, which found that “today’s college students are not as empathic as college students of the 1980s and `90s.”

Dr. Michele Borba, an internationally recognized expert and author on children, teens, parenting, bullying and moral development, in her article titled “Empathy Crisis: Why Children are Crueler,” cited several shockingly true examples of grade school children who were found guilty of murder. According to her, “they (the murderers) were all cold-hearted kids without an ounce of empathy — the one virtue that experts say could possibly have stopped them committing from their horrific acts.”

Of course, parents would never intentionally raise their children to be cold-blooded murderers, but we must be aware that our actions, words and examples play a vital role in how our children will empathize with others.

In the words of Dr. Borba:
“Empathy, the first essential virtue of moral intelligence, is the ability to identify with and feel for another person’s concerns. It’s the powerful emotion that halts violent and cruel behavior and urges us to treat others kindly. Because empathy emerges naturally and quite early, our children are born with a huge built-in advantage for their moral growth. But whether our kids will develop this marvelous capacity to feel for others is far from guaranteed. Although children are born with the capacity for empathy, it must be properly nurtured or it will remain dormant.”

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