The Great Empathy Tune-Up II: 5 Strategies to Raise Caring Kids

Last updated on May 28th, 2017 at 12:11 am

Male High School Student Comforting Unhappy FriendThe ability to empathize affects our kids’ future health, wealth, and happiness. It helps them build healthier relationships, strong character, and bounce back. It’s also what motivates our children to care.

For the past decade I’ve studied children’s character development and empathy. I’ve flown the world to interview dozens of kids and top researchers about empathy. And I’m convinced our children now – more than ever – need empathy!

The good news? Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured.

Here are five simple strategies from my new book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, that will help us raise compassionate, caring, courageous kids that thrive and survive in today’s new world. But before you begin, if you haven’t already, take Part I’s EMPATHY QUIZ and answer the question – HOW EMPATHETIC ARE YOUR KIDS? Then you can use the five strategies below to either tune-up or maintain your child’s Empathy Quotient.

PART II: THE GREAT EMPATHY TUNE-UP

Five Strategies to Nurture Children’s Empathy Capabilities

  1. Talk feelings! Without the ability to identify emotions kids are at a huge disadvantage. After all, how can they empathize if they can’t “read” how how another person feels? Today’s kids would rather text than talk and are plugged into digital devices around seven and a half minutes a day. So weave feeling words into conversations to teach emotional literacy. First, label the emotion you think your child feels: “You seem nervous.” Or: “Do you feel irritated?” Next, help read others’ emotions: “How do you think Sally feels?” Finally, activate her empathy to care: “If you think Sally is sad, what can you do to help?”
  1. Imagine how the person feels. One way to help your child identify with the feelings of others is to have him imagine how the other person feels about a specific circumstance. Suppose your child just sent a thank-you card to his aunt for the birthday present he received. Use it as an opportunity to help your child recognize his aunt’s feelings when she receives the card by having him pretend to be the aunt. “Pretend you’re Aunt Jen right now. You open up your mailbox and find this card. How will you feel when you read what it says?” You later can expand the imagining technique to include individuals your child has not personally met: “Pretend you’re a new neighbor, and you’re moving into this town and don’t know anyone. How will you feel?” Asking often, “How would you feel?” helps children grasp the needs and feelings of other people.
  1. little girl surprise mom w breakfastMake caring a routine. Kids don’t become kind on their own but need regular practice opportunities. Try my girlfriend’s ‘Two Kindness Rule.’ “I expect you to say or do at least two kind things every day,” she’d tell her daughters. The girls then reported their kind deeds later at dinner. And all that practice paid off: her daughters are now kind-hearted adults. Find simple ways to make kindness a routine part of your child’s life so she recognizes that caring is expected in your home and she sees herself as a caring person.
  1. Step into another’s shoes Role-playing helps kids grasp other’s feelings. You can use the technique countless ways to help your child consider the impact of his uncaring actions. Here’s how to use it in discipline: Let’s stop and do this again, but this time think how Kevin feels not being invited to play. I’ll pretend to be you. ‘Kevin, you can’t play with us.’ Now you be Kevin and act how he feels and thinks being left out.” The more kids imagine another’s feelings and needs, the stronger their ability to empathize and care. So find ways to help your child imaginatively step into the shoes of another.
  1. Find ways for your child to do good. Many children lack empathy because their experiences have never allowed them to think about perspectives other than their own. So provide opportunities for your child to experience different perspectives and views in your community, by visiting nursing homes, homeless shelters, centers for the blind, pediatric wards, soup kitchens, veteran’s hospitals, and political campaign headquarters. The more your child experiences different perspectives, the more likely she will be able to empathize with others whose needs and views differ from hers.

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UnSelfie 140x210Teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—along with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, it hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy. The good news? Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured. UnSelfie is a blueprint for parents and educators who want activate our children’s hearts and shift their focus from I, me, and mine… to we, us, and ours. It’s time to include “empathy” in our parenting and teaching! UnSelfie is AVAILABLE TODAY at amazon.com.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is Sensory Friendly at AMC on Sat

Last updated on June 15th, 2016 at 06:35 pm

New sensory friendly logoAMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other special needs “Sensory Friendly Films” every month – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy fun new films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

TMNT-posterDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

This month, AMC and the Autism Society’s “Sensory Friendly Film” are offering the chance to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows on Saturday, June 11th at 10am local tune. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming later in June: X-Men: Apocalypse (Tues, 6/14), Finding Dory (Sat, 6/25)

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Editor’s note: Although Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows has been chosen by the AMC and the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly Film, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for sci-fi action violence. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.

Take an Active Holiday to Benefit the Whole Family

Last updated on July 5th, 2016 at 05:50 pm

There are many ways to get fit and have fun on holiday, from activity breaks to motivating your kids to get active.

active-family-holidayOne of the main excuses for not exercising is lack of time. But when you’re on holiday you’ve got plenty of time, so make the most of it.

A holiday is the perfect opportunity to get more exercise because you can be as active as you want.

A holiday that involves more than lying on a beach can be an incentive to get moving. The trip can leave you feeling rejuvenated, positive and full of energy.

“Holidays are a golden opportunity to get active,” says Robin Gargrave of YMCAfit, one of the UK’s leading trainers of fitness professionals.

“You may think that you want to lie by the pool all day, but that will make you more tired. You’ll feel more rested at the end of your holiday if you’re active.”

Active holidays are the perfect opportunity to get children moving. They may want to sit and play with their portable video game, but once you get them doing something they like and they make new friends, they’ll forget the video games.

“Holidays are a great way for kids to discover activities that they’ll like and will want to keep doing once they return home,” says Robin.

Taking part in activities with the children brings the family together and sets a good example.

You can opt for an activity-focused holiday, such as cycling, hiking or sailing, or choose a destination where you can do a variety of activities.

The most important thing is to do something you enjoy. The health benefits will be a by-product. “Choose something you’re going to like,” says Robin. “If you’ve never been on a horse before, why go pony trekking?”

Good Preparation

You may need to build up your fitness levels before your trip if your activity is physically demanding, such as skiing, mountaineering or windsurfing.

Start preparing for your trip 12 weeks before departure. “Start a conditioning programme to cope with the physical demands of the holiday,” says Robin. Read our guide to exercising safely and effectively.

“If all goes well, you’ll have a great time during your trip. On your return home, you’ll feel healthy and good about yourself. Your holiday can spur you to keep going.”

Preparation, selection of activities and safety are essential ingredients for a memorable active holiday. “Otherwise, it can put you off exercise in the long run,” says Robin.

Holiday Activity Ideas

Here are some ideas for making your holidays more active:

Camping and Hiking
Camping holidays are affordable, and most children love being outdoors. There are lots of opportunities for exercise, from raising a tent and gathering firewood, to nature hikes.

Volunteer Vacations
Whether planting trees or helping to build houses for underprivileged families, people who spend their vacation time helping others get much more than a physical workout.

Closer to Home
Be a tourist in your own neighbourhood. Exploring the museums, parks and historical sites near your home will be active and enriching. Head out to the countryside for hiking and biking fun, or take a day trip to a nearby city.





Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 05-30-2016 to 06-05-2016

Last updated on June 10th, 2016 at 07:17 am

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Health News: Concussions in Children Are Greatly Underestimated, Study Reveals https://t.co/tWqqxL8lUb

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Study Reveals Which Food Will Improve Cognitive Development Of Unborn Child http://ow.ly/vIR1300ZgzR

The Great Empathy Tune-Up I: How Empathetic Are Your Kids?

Last updated on May 28th, 2017 at 12:29 am

Friends Comforting Crying GirlLet’s face it, we’re raising our children in a world that is growing smaller. Global understanding, diversity, and perspective taking are skills that require “Empathy” – the ability to feel with another. The ability to empathize affects our kids’ future health, wealth, and happiness. And why? As a mom I’ve learned that it helps my sons build healthier relationships, strong character, and bounce back. But empathy is also what motivates our children to care. Though children are hard-wired to care, empathy must be nurtured.

Five simple strategies from my new book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, can help us raise caring kids that thrive and survive in today’s new world. But before reading them, take a moment to grade your child’s current Empathy Level. How empathetic are they today?? Then you can use the five strategies I present later this week to either tune up or maintain your child’s Empathy Quotient.

PART I: THE EMPATHY QUIZ: HOW EMPATHETIC ARE YOUR KIDS?

The 10 statements that follow describe behaviors usually displayed by preschoolers to teens with strong empathy. To evaluate your child’s strengths, read each statement and indicate what you believe best represents your child’s current level, and the corresponding number of points will be assigned:

Always = 5; Frequently = 4; Sometimes = 3; Rarely = 2; Never = 1

All 10 statements will be added together to get your child’s total score. If your child scores 41 to 50, she shows a strong empathy aptitude. If she scores 31 to 40, she could benefit from empathy enhancement. A score of 21 to 30 shows signs of weakness. A score of 10 to 20 reveals a need for a more intense empathy tune up.

 

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Thursday - The Great Empathy Tune-up II: 5 Strategies to Raise Caring Kids

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UnSelfie 140x210Teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—along with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, it hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy. The good news? Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured. UnSelfie is a blueprint for parents and educators who want to activate our children’s hearts and shift their focus from I, me, and mine… to we, us, and ours. It’s time to include “empathy” in our parenting and teaching! UnSelfie will be available tomorrow, June 7th at amazon.com

Each Family’s Food Allergy Story Differs: Find Your Own Voice

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018 at 12:28 pm

VoicesWhen our family was introduced to food allergies fourteen years ago, I never would have expected to foresee how it affected our lives in so many different ways. I’m not talking about the additional stress or cooking or even the multiple times that were just overwhelming but the future “us” with food allergies. When a family is given a food allergy diagnosis, time seems to stand still for a little while. Usual events are not handled the same way and every little thing that used to be part of your life must be stopped, rewound and rethought to ensure everyone’s safety for the rest of your lives. Your menus change, your thoughts change, your family and friends change and, eventually, your voice changes. I’m talking about the voice that everyone uses to discuss what is near and dear to their heart.

Choose Your Own Voice However you decide to share your food allergy passion, it’s important to use what you feel is best for you and your family’s situation. Yes, you can go with the flow and share whatever the current food allergy trend is but before you do, think about it. Is it something that you truly believe in? Does it feel as if it is the right connection for what’s going on with your personal food allergy journey? Is it something that you feel absolutely comfortable sharing with others? If you are not answering yes, I recommend that you think on it just a bit longer. There are many ways to advocate for food allergies and not all of them are always accepted by everyone. The most important thing is to make sure that you are comfortable accepting it.

Allow Others Their Own Voice This is where you may find yourself to be challenged just a bit. It’s hard enough to advocate on a level that’s right for you but it can be equally tricky to know how to let other people advocate in a way that is not yours. Two mothers arguingWhen you become passionate about what you need to tell others, there is sometimes a fine line between advocating and becoming overbearing when someone else is explaining how they must handle their food allergies. The food allergy community is one of the strongest families you will ever meet and need. Just as a regular family disagrees, so do your food allergy family members. When this happens, try to remember how you felt when you were so perplexed, unsure of where to start or what to do and give them whatever support you are able to give within your comfort zone. Sometimes just knowing someone else is there to listen even when they may not agree gives you more strength than anything.

The Range of Voices Not everyone wants to be as vocal as you, as active as you, as nice as you or as diligent as you. I will admit this was a difficult task for me to realize even in our own home. One of my favorite bloggers has a son close to my son’s age who began the website Food Allergy Ice Breaker to share his allergy passion. My son chooses to be very laid back about his food allergies. My daughter, who does not have life-threatening allergies, is an avid label-reader who looks out for her older brother as soon as she sees any possible allergy triggers. Then there’s me- the one with the big mouth who must share with everyone. You will meet people who seem angry and others that welcome you with open arms. Without this variety of voices, the food allergy community would have less strength and knowledge. These differences are what begin new conversations and bring us new information and that is something that keeps bringing us answers.

“Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.”
– Don Miguel Ruiz

If you are not sure which direction you should go in, ask people. Use your trusty devices and Google everything until you cannot Google anymore. Keep notes and collect whatever you can until you know inside of your heart that you are at a good place to start. Most importantly, if you have done all of that and you still need more advice, just ask. Ask me, ask teachers, sit in on local food allergy support groups and absorb everything. Food allergies are complex and seemingly endless but so is the information to keep you going. For those days that are more difficult and you feel as if you cannot possibly even try to have a voice- know that you did your very best for that day and tomorrow is another day. You will see that when you do not have the strength to speak, so many others will gladly speak for you until you can again.