Empathy

Check out our cheat sheet for more context on how to approach the sections below

Use the learning tool to add your own suggestions, comments, ideas, and feedback!

For parents 

  • The idea in Plain English: Empathy is being able to understand how someone is feeling and to show them compassion. In today’s society, we often live and work with people who are similar to us in our beliefs, values, race, political stances, and religious affiliation, thus giving us less opportunities to think about how those different from us view the world. Could this be creating an empathy deficit? Perhaps, but here is good news! Believe it or not, research shows that empathy can be learned and taught. Being an empathetic human is so important to leading a meaningful and fulfilling life (on all different planes), because in order to effectively lead and work with others, you must be able to put yourself in their shoes.
  • The goal or takeaway of learning this idea:  The goal is to recognize that your child needs empathy skills to be a productive member of society. Empathy gives your child a leg up, as empathy makes people better workers, managers, friends and family members. People are drawn to those who are empathetic, whether it be in school, work, or other relations. There may be no more important life skill.

See, Think, Wonder

The “see, think, wonder protocol” is meant to help kids see and think about a new topic in a thoughtful way. After showing the photo or video below for the first time, ask:

  1. What do you see? (Only what you literally see, no opinions or guesses) 
  2. What do you think is going on? ( some educated guesses about what is happening here)
  3. What do you Wonder? (What curiosities do you have after looking at the photo or video?) 
Photo by Joshua Clay on Unsplash

Open the document below to retrieve a printable handout for your child to write on:

See, Think, Wonder Work Sheet

Together Activity 

Read on below for this month’s Together Activities:

  1. Try talking to someone new, together. Perhaps you can strike up conversation with someone at the grocery store or the library. Getting to talk to someone outside of your normal circle can help to build understanding of the lives of others. This simple task can help build empathy by allowing you to shift perspective and see the world from their angle. 
  2. Think about what life is like for someone else, especially someone who may annoy you. Ask yourself why they may be acting the way they act. For example, if Billy at school is mean all the time, go through and think about what difficulties he might have going on. Does he have a loving family? Is he often left alone? Is someone else mean to him? Thinking about what may trigger someone can help you understand their situation more deeply, and thus empathize, with how they are. 
  3. Understand how lucky you might have it. No matter your circumstance, there is always someone who has it worse than you. This can be hard to imagine in the moment, but it can help provide perspective when you most need it. This short quiz helps put things in perspective and, at the very least, can build a tremendous sense of gratitude. Perhaps you will be inspired to volunteer to help those who are lower on the privilege spectrum than you are.

Extra resources

Here are some extra resources for you to read with your kid. Each month there will be a mix of articles and books. We will let you know what is just for you, and to share with your kid. 

  1.  Read or watch Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson (video here)

Ask these questions before reading: 

  • Have you ever been the new person in a situation before? How did it make you feel? 
  • Looking at the cover picture, what do you think is happening? How does the girl feel? 

Questions as you read the book and as your reflect 

  • When the teacher asks the students to say, “good morning” to Maya, they are mostly silent. Why do you think this is? 
  • How do you think Maya felt when the students didn’t really say hello? How would you feel if you were Maya?
  •  When Maya tries to play with the kids in her class what happens? How do you think Maya feels now? What would you do if you were Maya?
  •  How would you act if you were Chloe? 
  •  How does Chloe feel at the end of the story? Can you think of a time you felt this way?

2. Read this article on practicing empathy. It could help you think about how to be more empathetic toward your child, spouse, friend, family member, etc., thus leading by example.

Weekly Questions

Week 1: What does empathy mean to you? Can you think of a time you’ve been empathetic? 

Week 2: A friend of yours is really sad because their pet dog died. How can you show them empathy? What could you say to them or do for them?

Week 3: What are some ways that we can show you empathy in this family? Do you like for us to ask you what’s going on, let you be sad on your own, distract you? Maybe take turns sharing how you can help each other out in your family when you’re feelin blue. 

Week 4: Your friend is very mad because they didn’t do well on a test, but you did. How can you show them empathy? What can you say to them?