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This month we will focus on the Powerful Word, “empathy.”

Empathy refers to our ability to “take a walk in someone else’s shoes” so we can imagine how they feel and respond appropriately. A crucial social skill, empathy allows people to problem solve together as well as make and retain friends. Without the ability to determine the emotions and take the perspective of others, children may choose to act in ways that are wholly self-serving.

Young children can have trouble with perspective taking even though empathy, according to the research, is inborn. Through experience, learning and good parenting (yes; empathy must be nurtured!), young children learn that others have feelings and that their actions can impact another person’s emotions.

As children get older, they learn to recognize emotions and causes of emotions. They get better at inferring other people’s feelings. While society tends to emphasize empathy skills for girls more than boys, all humans need empathy to nurture relationships. We know that our teens these days often spend a lot of time online. While a recent study by Stanford University suggests that social networking sites like Facebook are no replacement for real human interaction, a new World Vision 30 Hour
Famine study has found that these sites aid teens with developing empathetic skills by making them more aware of the needs of others (Feb, 2012).

Whether it’s through the internet, books or experience it’s vital to our children’s character that they learn about how other people live. What kinds of struggles do they contend with each day? How would they feel if they were in their shoes? What might they do to help others in need?

The more we demonstrate empathy skills including listening, good communication, and naming emotions around our children, the more likely they are to adopt them and sharpen them for themselves.

We look forward to partnering with you on discussing empathy this month.

Here’s to your success!

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