“What exactly is empathy and why do we care if our children are empathetic?” I was asked that question the other day and it made me think about the world our children are growing up in and the issues and expectations that they are facing. Empathy is the ability to understand, share and show compassion and feelings for another person – a quality that I work to instill in my children everyday. It’s also a quality that is disappearing from our world. I do not know if it’s the fast paced, over scheduled life that causes us to not take the time to truly talk to our children. Or if it’s the constant screen use that’s causing our kids to not understand social cues, be able to communicate with people face to face or understand life behind the screen altogether. What I do know is that these are a few of the reasons that came to my mind when asked why we need empathy in our world…
– The young woman at the airport not caring about tripping my child and rolling her bag over his leg until I stopped her and reminded her that the least she could do is say, “I’m sorry.”
– The trolls on Twitter who break people down with their horrible words and yes, words leave scars.
– The football player who intentionally tried to physically hurt the other player’s knee and get him out of the game because that was how they were going to win.
– The texts sent to the one girl left out of the sleepover reminding her that she’s not invited making her feel sad and breaking down her self esteem.
– The mean posts by “friends” on Snapchat, Yik Yak, Facebook and others that are aimed at hurting others. Remember- hurt people, hurt people, which leads to bullying.
– Parents pushing children to succeed at the cost of another person’s demise.
These are just a few reasons that I personally have witnessed in how lack of empathy is being played out in today’s society. Understanding and showing compassion for other humans is not first and foremost anymore. It seems that it’s being replaced with a very selfish society who is all about me, me, me, and the future repercussions of this is sad. Lack of empathy for others can have a spiraling effect on those targeted causing them to have low self esteem which can lead to poor decision making, an unwillingness to be a leader and to not care about having friends among other things. We want our children to be leaders, succeed and move forward in their lives in a positive, healthy direction. We can achieve this by showing and teaching them to have compassion for others and work to understand others’ feelings, therefore developing the ability to work with others and value their opinions.
Outside of good health and happiness, what qualities and traits are important to you for your children to embody as they grow up and move into adulthood? When I think of my basic, off the top of my head list for my children when it comes to how I hope empathy plays a role in their lives, here is what I come up with…
Do I want my children to say, “I’m sorry” and mean it? Yes I do. Do I want my children to understand right from wrong? Yes I do. Do I want my daughter to have the confidence to feel comfortable saying no and meaning it? Yes I do. Do I want my children to make and keep lifelong friends? Yes I do. Do I want my children to understand their feelings as well as someone else’s and be able to communicate effectively? Yes I do. Do I want my children to have and show respect for others? Yes I do.
This is why empathy and compassion are important. Teach our children well.
–Mary & Claire
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