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Instilling Empathy

January 2nd, 2018

One common admonition from all of the world’s great religions is a variation of “treat others as you would have them treat you.” Oh, if we could only live up to this prescription.

Today, one of the biggest challenges we are seeing with school children is the extent to which they are treating each other poorly, often in mean-spirited, hurtful ways. Add to this the phenomenon of social media on phones and computers, and the avenues for inflicting hurt have exploded exponentially.

Children, of course, are always in a learning process, and it often takes time acquire important values and skills. But, it is up to ALL of us to do their teaching. So, what do we do?

1) Talk with your children about empathy, about trying to understand the views or feelings of “the other.” Tell them that you expect this from them.

2) Hold them accountable if they violate this expectation.

3) Since children learn most from what they see, demonstrate this value daily.

4) Support your child’s school in promoting and enforcing this expectation in the school culture.

As you speak with your children, recall the example provided by Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird: “If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb inside his skin and walk around in it.”

May it be so. Our children need this wisdom, and they need it imparted by us.

For more information, or for counseling services, call 847-981-0373.

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