Ashoka is the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. This is from Ashoka’s Empathy Initiative: “Empathy. We don’t hear the term every day, but Ashoka Fellows over the past thirty years have shown time and again that there is no practice more fundamental to the human experience and no skill closer to the heart of what it means to be a changemaker. Its presence–and as profoundly, its absence–can be seen amongst the myriad challenges that populate our daily headlines, whether school bullying, ethnic conflict, crime, or the global preparedness of tomorrow’s workforce.”
In response to this, Ashoka is launching an initiative aimed a teaching children empathy and changing the way the education system is run by making empathy as much of a priority as Maths or English. They are aiming to equip principals, teachers and parents with the tools and resources they need to effectively grow and develop empathy in children and young people.
Coming from a background in education, I believe that this is an important initiative because empathy is one of the most valuable traits children can have. I have seen how the lack of empathy in children can compromise friendships and cause them to hurt others.
Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others and, at least to some degree, feel what they feel and respond to help them. There is nothing better when your child wants to find ways to help others. We are very blessed because not only do we teach empathy to our children, we are also in a church and the children go to a school that are that are active in helping others and finding ways to actively bring change.
“Empathy is one of the foundational moral emotions,” says Laura Padilla Walker, professor at the School of Family Life, “it is linked to moral action. It’s a feeling that compels people to act compassionately while reasoning alone might not.”
Children are developmentally focused on themselves. We need to teach our children empathy – don’t expect it to be something they automatically know. Empathy is not a born or genetic trait but comes with maturity, development and learning. It is not a natural process and children need opportunities to practice and observe the concept in order to fully grasp the idea. Practice, Practice, Practice!!
In my next post, I will focus on the ways we can help children learn empathy.