Empathy (n): The ability to understand the feelings and perspectives of others and to use that understand to guide one's actions.
As the new school year begins, your child will be spending more than 20 hours a week with other peers his age. Having so many kids with different backgrounds under one roof may inevitably lead to misunderstandings, confusion, and friction. Thankfully, a new educational initiative called Start Empathy is dedicated to teaching young kids about empathy, so that kids can relate to one another on a deeper level.
Ashoka, the innovative group behind Start Empathy, believes that developing empathy is a skill that can be developed and that is equally important to reading and writing. By cultivating empathy, kids will learn how to articulate, participate, collaborate with one another. And by listening and connecting, kids will have a foundation to make good decisions, solve problems, and be effective leaders when they grow up.
To nurture these skills, Start Empathy has partnered with a few select elementary schools across the country. The group works with these different schools (known as changemaker schools) and provides teachers with toolkits that outline step-by-step instructions and interactive exercises to help kids learn about empathy. As the initiative grows, Start Empathy hopes to work with more teachers and eventually offer support to parents so they can continue empathy exercises outside of school.
According to Start Empathy, research has also shown that kids who develop empathy around 6-years-old are less likely to bully or participate in bullying as they grow older. If you're a parent or educator (or both), head over to StartEmpathy.org to learn more about bringing an empathy program to your local school and to become a part of the Changemaker Schools Network. As Start Empathy says, when kids change for the better, schools change for the better, and eventually the world changes for the better.
How are you cultivating empathy with your kids? What other values are you teaching them?