- 16 April 2017
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There are so many negative and stressful things happening in the world right now it can be challenging to stay positive. One way that we can feel more in control and make a positive impact is to help one another. In fact, research has determined that helping others is good for you!
“Helping our fellow man has long been seen as an altruistic behavioral model. But it turns out that more selfish motives-pleasing friends, doing what you want-are more successful causes of effective volunteering. Whatever the motive, volunteering improves the health, happiness, and in some cases, the longevity of volunteers. Children who volunteer are more likely to grow up to be adults who volunteer. Even unwilling children who are forced to volunteer fare better than kids who don’t volunteer. And in a virtuous circle, communities with lots of volunteers are more stable and better places to live, which in turn further boosts volunteerism”
Why Helping Others Makes Us Happy – US News and World Report. See full article HERE.
At SOI, we focus on character-building as a core part of our curriculum. The inclusionary environment allows us many “teachable moments” where we encourage the children to value each other’s differences and help one another. My own children were raised with children of many different abilities around them at all times. Now, at ages 10 and 12 they are two of the kindest and most empathetic children that I have ever met. They understand and value the differences that every individual has and appreciate and enjoy them as opposed to judging them. Teaching children to help one another and appreciate others’ strengths decreases challenges later on such as bullying and teasing. By encouraging your child at this age to be kind, empathetic and helpful and eventually to volunteer to help others, you are laying the foundation for a kind and giving adult. That’s how we can change the world!
Here are some wonderful tips for encouraging empathy in your child:
* Model empathy. We all need love and understanding. Research shows that parenting with empathy and guidance encourages healthy emotional growth.
* Give simple, clear explanations about how people feel when they are feeling sad, hurt, angry, scared, or happy. If your child caused these feelings it is very important for them to see the consequences of their behavior. No blaming…only guidance, support, and problem-solving techniques.
* Kindness is “caught not taught.” Children will copy YOU! They watch to see how you treat others.
* Praise your child’s small steps…sharing a toy, getting a Band-Aid, noticing another’s feelings, etc.
* Encourage empathy but don’t expect that they will respond perfectly every time. They are learning about how emotions work. Every interaction can be a learning experience.
* Label feelings.
“It made your sister very sad when you took her toy away. See her tears?”
“It was so kind of you to help your friend when he fell down. He feels so much better now.”
“What can you do to help someone who is sad, hurt, frightened etc.?”
* Encourage your child to talk about their feelings and yours. Listening intently shows that you care and want to know more. Listen to his/her views and challenges before offering your own.
* Notice other people’s behavior in relation to your child. This will help them understand how other people’s feelings affect them.
“Remember how Sarah helped you to feel better on your first day at school?”
* Read books and notice/discuss how your child thinks that the characters are feeling in the story. Fiction can be an effective way to discuss an issue indirectly…a way in.
“Would you be brave, scared if you were this character?”
* Recall and extend story lines in your favorite book by using them in real life situation.
“Remember how the Little Engine made it up the hill…how did he do that?”
* Teach non-verbal cues. Play a guessing game about what other people are feelings. Make up stories to enhance your understanding. Notice the body language, facial expression, and pace of a person.
* Encourage your child to think of others.
“Do you think that your sister would like us to bring home a treat for her?”
* Give your child jobs. Research shows that as your child takes on simple responsibilities they learn about caring and altruism. Feeding the dog, setting the table, picking up after him/herself, etc.
* Involve your child in charitable activities. Acts of kindness are a great way to teach empathy and the feelings that reward you. Donate toys, books. Send a picture to grandparents, a sick friend, or a teacher. Prepare a meal and deliver to someone ill or with a new baby etc. Explain your helping behavior.
Compiled by Marilynn Jorgensen MA Owner – The Emotion Company
As we all know, parenting is a huge responsibility. The more children I meet and watch grow and develop, the more that I am convinced that it is not the grades that a child has that ensure their success as an adult; it is the way that they see the world. Notice the good things that your child does each day and commend them for it. Model and encourage kindness and empathy as well as never giving up, and your child will have a future that is even more wonderful than what you could imagine for them. Keep up the great work, parent!!!!