Monday, September 1, 2014

Teaching Our Kids Empathy and Compassion

Ditas ( my daughter) and Carenna ( my grand daughter) in Paris

My youngest 11 yr old grand daughter, Carenna Katague Thompson, is in 6th grade in our local Roman Catholic Elementary school.

Yesterday she came home in tears. As a big and tall 6th grader she is walking home in a big group of kids from her catholic school. The route passes a local hospital and their new Cardiology and Heart Center. As they were walking a woman ran outside of the center, obviously distraught and grief-stricken, wailing "why? Why?" One of the 7th graders started filming her on his phone and the 6th graders all started making fun of her imitating her. Not even making an effort to consider that she may have just lost her husband, or mother, or child.

The kids all laughed while my grand daughter held back her empathetic tears, knowing the searing pain of losing someone they loved. My daughter even said, "hey you guys, maybe she just lost a loved one?" and they all ignored her. So much for teaching compassion and empathy to our children.

When I posted this incident in my Facebook Page, I received a few comments. One of the comments I like to share is as follows

“ Values are taught by parents. I'd be curious as to how many kids enrolled in the Catholic school actually attend church of any denomination. It seems that many religious schools have become the places parents send their kids because they don't want to put their kids in the local public school. It has little to do with religious education.

If religious education stops at the end of the school day that is a real problem. Any child who is raised in a congregation ought to have attended many funerals by the time they are in 6th grade. They should have been around grief and understand what it is because their parents should have been right there with them explaining it as they attended funerals and visitations as a family. Kids will listen to, or ignore, what they choose as a message from the school if that message is not reinforced at home.”

My daughter wrote on her FaceBook Page:

"Carenna and I did email the Principal who is very compassionate and who does a great job at school assemblies telling teaching stories etc. I do want Carenna to learn both empathy and compassion for those facing adversity, BUT also to be gracious and congratulatory to those who have triumphs and joyful things happen to them as well.

The awesome Principal handled it beautifully and spoke with all the students and their parents. The kids were young and immature and just not thinking, but it became a learning experience for all and I think it turned out for the better. Thank you all for the support. Sometimes I feel very alone in raising this sensitive wonderful daughter of mine".

I can not agree more at the above comments. Do You agree?

As a background to this post, my grand daughter lost her Dad about two years ago. My son-in-law was a victim of colon cancer at a young age of 52. My daughter until now is still grieving at the loss of her husband. However through her paintings and art work, both her and my grand daughter are holding on. Thanks to the support of her numerous friends and family.

Here's the site where my daughter and grand daughter exhibit their paintings and photographs as part of their therapy.

There are several articles on how to instill and develop compassion in children at home in the WEB. However an article from attracted my attention. In that article, the author four items that will encourage empathy, caring, and compassion as follows.

1. You need to discuss to your child feelings and consequences of actions. Children who are helped to understand emotions and how their behavior impacts others are more likely to develop a deeper sense of empathy

2. Don't be afraid to explore negative emotions. Children who are allowed to show anger, sadness, or distress and helped to cope with these emotions tend to become more sympathetic and competent in later social situations.

3. You must validate caring behavior when you observe it. It will help children identify positive courses of action and last but not least,

4. You must provide opportunities for your child to care for someone or something other than themselves - a pet, a plant, or another person. Even if you can't take in a pet, perhaps you can have your child feed a neighbor’s cat.

Children first have to feel good about themselves to turn those positive feelings towards others. Children who grow up with helping and responsibility modeled are more likely to show those behaviors towards others.

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