Seven Great Ways to Foster Empathy in Children

By Jill Suttie

Seven Ways to Foster Empathy in ChildrenWe live in the age of the selfie—the ubiquitous symbol of narcissism.

But this focus on the self to the exclusion of others is harmful to our children, according to Michele Borba, author of the new book UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. More than the photos themselves, the idea behind them—that we are the center of our world—is the problem, reflecting a decreased focus on others and a lack of empathy.

According to Borba, low levels of empathy are rampant in our culture, and in kids that’s associated with bullying, cheating, weak moral reasoning, and mental health issues, like anxiety and depression. Her book is a call to parents, teachers, and other caring adults to help encourage children to develop empathy and generosity toward others, and it’s full of research-based tips on how to do so.

Some tips are focused on increasing emotional literacy in general, by helping kids to better understand their own emotions and the emotions of others. Others involve helping kids to foster a sense of themselves as caring people, by engaging them in activities where they can be generous and by modeling generosity toward others ourselves. Still others involve helping kids to become moral heroes, in school and out of it.

Below are some of Borba’s suggestions.
1. Help Kids Develop a Moral Identity
2. Give Kids “Do-Overs”
3. Encourage Empathy Through Stories
4. Support Empathy Education in School
5. Examine Your Values
6. Be Mindful of Social Media Use
7. Help Kids Find Their Inner Hero

While Borba is thorough in providing ideas for parents and teachers, the abundance of advice and the number of acronyms she uses sometimes make it difficult for a reader to know where to start. But it seems clear that if want the world to be a better place, we do need to nurture empathy and compassion in our kids.

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Related Continuing Education Courses

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