Teaching Empathy in School

A big change in the school’s curriculum over the last ten years is adding in the process of teaching empathy to kids. While some parents and teachers believe it’s a waste of time in the day, others have seen the positive effects of taking that time out of their day to explicitly teach how to be empathetic to their students. 

This YouTube video is a pretty well-known video, as it’s been out for a few years. However, I think it’s a great reminder no matter how many times you’ve watched it! 

I noticed firsthand how well modeling empathy works as I watched my 4-year-old daughter sit on the steps with her crying friend. She placed her hand on her friend’s shoulder, sat in the sound of her cries for a time, and eventually said, “This made you really sad, I am here for you.” 

My four-year-old had just displayed better empathetic skills than I ever have and I was blown away! But upon pondering why she was so incredible at handling the situation at such a young age, I came to the conclusion that she has an army of great examples all around her teaching empathy, being myself, her grandparents, her teachers, and more! 

After this encounter with my daughter, it really made me stand on the side of teaching empathy in schools and how important it can look. Because what would have been the alternative to her not showing empathy? Her friend would have been crying on the stairs and my daughter would have reacted in a way that included saying things like, “Stop crying, it’s time to play!” or, “Sorry you’re sad, that sucks for you.” and it would have dismissed her friend’s feelings, causing more sadness and hurt. But instead, she recognized the feelings in her friend and sat in sadness with her for as long as it took. 

I can’t see why the alternative would have been a better way for her to react than using her skills to show empathy would have been. So, yes. I do stand on the side of teaching empathy in schools. And yes, it will take more time and effort on everyone’s part. But what results would come from it? In extreme cases, it can save a life. 

What are your thoughts on teaching empathy in schools? 

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