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9 Ways to Help Your Children Cope with Painful Emotions

Last updated on June 22nd, 2018 at 01:48 am

The social-emotional development of our nation’s children is foremost in our minds. We have all hugged our children and expressed gratitude for their health and well-being. We pray for those families who now are hurting so deeply. Some of whom are very close to our own hearts.

When life is difficult or complicated and our children are in a stress-response, we need to co-regulate with them. Our words and actions can help the children “Find Calm”.  What we say, think and do in these intense or painful moment matters.

Co-regulating is about being present and ready to sit with the child in their fear, hurt or pain. Here are 9 ways you can say, “Your feelings matter”.  “Together, we will get through this.”  Feel free to grab these mantras if one rings true for you. Let us share some love and kindness when moments get tough.

  • “We can embrace your BIG feelings. Let’s breathe through them together”
  • “Let’s move through your BIG feelings together
  • “Your feelings truly matter to me”
  • Let’s choose how many minutes you will be in these BIG feelings.”
  • “You have the power to feel deeply and still be balanced and calm.”
  • “Help me better understand how you feel.”
  • “Let’s Be Calm Together.”
  • “I am right here with you.  We will work through this together.”
  • “We can work through these intense feelings together.”

 

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bloom cover - 140x208Written for real parents with anxious, angry and over-the-top kids, Bloom is a brain-based approach to parenting all children. Taking its lead from neuroscience and best practices in early childhood mental health, it offers parents, teachers and care providers the words, thoughts and actions to raise calm, confident children, while reducing the need for consequences and punishment. The first book of its kind, it provides pages full of printable mantras you can carry with you, hang on your fridge or use in your classroom to raise emotionally competent kids. Stop second-guessing the way you handle misbehaviors, and learn why they occur in the first place. Bloom is available at amazon.com

 

 

How to Teach Your Kids Empathy-Building Skills

Last updated on July 15th, 2018 at 11:53 am

Empathy is the critical ability that puts us in other people’s shoes and helps us feel with them. Research finds that this immensely human trait can be cultivated. That means we can teach empathy to kids just like reading, math, and writing because it is made up of social-emotional skills that can be developed.

But in today’s test-driven, digital-driven, competitive culture, cultivating kids’ empathy is low on our priority lists. It’s a big reason American’s teens empathy dipped 40 percent in just 30 years! In fact, almost 75 percent of today’s students rate themselves as less empathetic than their average counterpart three decades ago.

It’s time we recognize that empathy is anything but soft and fluffy, but  crucial for our children’s success, happiness, and character, as well as key to helping them become contributing members of a global world.

So how do we weave in empathy-building into our packed days? That’s what I spent ten years researching as I wrote UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. In the process I found dozens of simple cost-effective strategies like the one that follows. I also recognized that our best hope for children to develop habits of empathy is for educators and parents to work together in their empathy-building efforts. What follows is one of the effective ways I’ve observed. Not only does it match the research but also is most likely to help kids actually develop the skill so they can use it without us!

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Shipley is a private school with a stellar academic reputation, but it also embraces social and emotional learning to prepare students for life. I observed Shipley’s monthly “Parent Drop-In Day,” where Lucy McDermott’s second graders schooled their moms and dads in a crucial empathy-builder called, “I Messages.” I realized that how her students were learning the core social-emotional skill is exactly how parents and educators should teach any empathy-builder to kids.

An “I Message” (or “I Statement”) is a sentence frame to assert the feelings, beliefs, values, or concerns of the person speaking. The message generally begins with the word, “I,” (contrasted with starting with “you,”) and can be a valuable interpersonal communication tool to help children share their concerns, views, or feelings to another in a respectful way.

The strategy also reduces conflicts and restores relationships so “I Messages” can be a technique to keep empathy open and reduce the notorious Empathy Gap. The sentence frame has been used for years, but too often students must be prompted by an adult to use it. Ms. McDermott was teaching the skill so her students were more likely to transfer and use it outside the classroom..

Empathy-building skills must be developed and practiced repeatedly before children can “live them.”

McDermott’s parent program began with eight-year old Sammy introducing the empathy skill to parents.

“We use ‘I Messages’ to help us share our feelings with words such as: angry, sad, hurt, uncomfortable and frustrated,” he explained.

Then Josh explained the benefits: “‘I Messages’ help us to solve disagreements and conflicts. They help us communicate, and allow us to really listen to each other.” And he held up a chart showing the formula:

“To give an ‘I Message’ start by saying: ‘I feel…when you…because… and I need you to…”

“To receive an ‘I Message’ respond by saying: ‘You feel…when I…because… I will…’”

Next, students showed parents how to use “I Messages” by role-playing different scenarios. This was the powerful piece. Research substantiates that children learn skills best by showing-not telling-them what it looks like. These students were showing the empathy skill to their parents. Brilliant!

Then came the grand finale: Moms and Dads practiced the skill in child-led “tutoring sessions.” And interactions were priceless. One was plain unforgettable:

“Dad, I’m frustrated when you use your cell when I’m talking, because I feel you care more about your phone than me,” one boy told his dad. “I want you to put your phone away when I talk to you, please.”

From the Dad’’s pained look you knew his son’s words hit home. And then it was the Dad’s turn to use the “I Message.”

“Josh, you’re frustrated because you think I care more about my phone when you talk to me,” he answered. “You want me to put my phone away when you talk.” And then added, “Thanks for telling me, I promise to work on that.” His son smiled broadly: Dad was really “getting it.”

Lucy McDermott was teaching her students empathy-building skills using four steps that are crucial to mastery.

  • First, students named and described the empathy-building skill.
  • Second, they explained the benefits: “’I Messages’ help us to solve disagreements and conflicts, communicate, and really listen to each other.”
  • Third, students demonstrated “I-Messages” through role-playing and practiced.
  • Fourth, students taught the skill to someone else (in this case, their parents).

Those four steps are also the optimum way to teach any new social-emotional skill or empathy-building habit to a child.

Tips to Engage Parents in Empathy Building

Lucy McDermott found an ingenious way to help her students teach their parents a critical empathy-building skill. But what about parents who weren’t at her event? And what other ways can educators help parents learn skills to expand their children’s empathy? Try these tips:

  1. Make a video of an event like McDermott’s and share it with parents at your back to school night, parent conference or to new students.
  2. Have students make a video showing how to use the skill and send it home for them to share with their family on flash-drives.
  3. Put your video on a television monitor and show it on a screen in your school hallway like a PSA announcement so everyone entering your building sees the skill.
  4. Create a worksheet or poster of the skill, and send it home as “homework.” Each child teaches the empathy-builder to their parents who sign a form substantiating the parent-child practice.
  5. Turn the worksheet of the empathy-skill into a small magnet for parents to put on their refrigerators as an ongoing reminder.

Finding simple ways to educate parents about social-emotional skills improves the likelihood that students will use them both inside and outside the classroom. You can use the four steps to teach your child any empathy building skill in UnSelfie (and there are dozens). Just choose one skill a month (or as long as it takes), and keep reviewing, modeling, reinforcing and practicing it until the child can use it alone. Transfer!

4 Steps To Learn An Empathy-Building Skill

Step 1: Explain

Tell the child why the empathy skill matters, and how it will boost success. “Mindful breathing helps you stay calm.”

Step 2: Show

Kids learn skills best by showing what they look like, not lecturing or telling them. (Can you imagine a football coach telling his quarterback, “Go throw the football.”? Of course not!  Effective coaches show how to throw the ball, and then correct players when wrong). Teach empathy skills like a coach.

Step 3: Practice

Learning a new skill usually takes around 21 days of repetition, so choose one new empathy skill each month and practice it together a few minutes a day. Mastering a skill takes lots of practice opportunities. You might role-play the skill together, practice with family members, have the child teach a younger sibling or show Grandma via Skype. Do acknowledge your child’s empathy-building efforts.

Step 4: Use 

Continue providing practice opportunities until the child can use the skill without reminders, reinforcement or coaxing. Even better, make empathy skill-building a family affair, and practice together until the skill becomes automatic and your child can use it alone.

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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 NOW at amazon.com.

How to Teach Kids to Be Active Bystanders to Reduce Bullying

Last updated on May 27th, 2018 at 09:14 pm

Studies show that active bystanders can do far more than just watch. In fact, student bystanders may be our last, best hope in reducing bullying. Active student bystanders can:

  • Reduce the audience that a bully craves
  • Mobilize the compassion of witnesses to step in and stop the bullying
  • Support the victim and reduce the trauma
  • Be a positive influence in curbing a bullying episode
  • Encourage other students to support a school climate of caring
  • Report a bullying incident since 85 percent of time bullying occurs an adult is not present. Students are usually the witnesses

When bystanders intervene correctly, studies find they can stop the bullying more than half the time and within 10 seconds. [Pepler and Craig]

There are parameters to activate student bystanders, so get educated! Here are a few facts to ensure success:

  • To ensure success you must first mobilize students to be active bystanders.
  • You must give students permission to step in.
  • You must also teach specific strategies so they can step in.
  • Each strategy must be rehearsed or role-played, until kids can use it alone. (I’ve had schools have students role-play these in assemblies, make them into chart-reminders that are posted around the school, and even have students create mini-videos of each strategy to share with peers).
  • Not every strategy will work for every student, so you must provide a range of strategies.
  • Ideally you must enlist your peer leaders – those students on the highest popularity tier who other students look up to – to mobilize other peers.
  • Adults must be onboard with the approach and understand what bullying is and how to respond. Adults must listen to student reports on bullying and back students up. The biggest reason kids say they don’t report: “The adult didn’t listen or do anything to help.” Step up adults!

The best news is that child advocates and parents can teach kids these same bystander skills. Doing so empowers children with tools to stop cruelty, help victims feel safer and reduce bullying. Here are the three steps:

 STEP ONE: Teach Students Tattling vs. Reporting

Kids must realize that safety is always the primary goal, so stress to students:

  • “If someone could get hurt, REPORT!
  • “It’s always better to be safe than sorry.”

Teach students the crucial difference between “Tattling” and “Reporting” so they will know when they should step in because a child is bullied or when to step back and let two kids handle things for themselves because it’s just friendly teasing. Also identify specific trusted adults children can go to and report bullying incidents if they do identify bullying. Here is the crucial difference:

  • Tattling is when you trying to get kids IN trouble when they aren’t hurting themselves or other.
  • Reporting is when you’re trying to help keep kids OUT of trouble because they may get hurt (or they are). Report bullying to an adult you trust. If the adult doesn’t listen, keep reporting until you find an adult who does listen.

STEP TWO: Teach What Bullying Looks and Sounds Like

The next step is to teach students what bullying behaviors look like so they will know when they should step in and not when the behavior is mere teasing.

1. Explain 3 parts of bullying:

  1. Bullying is a cruel or aggressive act that is done on purpose. The bully has more power (strength, status, or size) than the targeted child who cannot hold his own.
  2. The hurtful bullying behavior is not an accident, but done on purpose.
  3. The bully usually seems to enjoy seeing the victim in distress and rarely accepts responsibility and often says the target “deserved” the hurtful treatment.”

2. Teach: “Five Bullying Types”:  Depending on the child’s age, bullying can take on difference forms including and children need to know what those forms. Bullying can be:

  1. Physical: Punching, hitting, slamming, socking, spitting, slapping;
  2. Verbal: Saying put downs, nasty statements, name calling, taunting, racial slurs, or hurtful comments, threatening;
  3. Emotional: Shunning, excluding, spreading rumors or mean gossip, ruining your reputation;
  4. Electronic or cyber-bullying: Using the Internet, cell phone, camera, text messaging, photos to say mean or embarrassing things;
  5. SexualSaying or doingthings that are lewd or disrespectful in a sexual way

3. Mobilize Student Compassion Students could make posters, power-point presentations, skits, or projects about bullying. The key is for students to understand the real definition of bullying. And they must know that the staff is serious about supporting them and will back them up and respond. 

4. Use Literature or Videos: You might also use literature or video clips to help students understand the definition of bullying. Here are a few literature favorites: Confessions of a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig; Say Something by Peggy Moss Gardiner;  Teammates by Peter Golenbock; The Bully Blockers Club, by Teresa Bateman.

STEP THREE: Teach “Bully BUSTER Bystander” Skills

I teach the acronym BUSTER as a mnemonic to help kids remember the skills more easilyEach letter in the word represents one of the six bystander skills.

Borba’s Six “Be a Bully B.U.S.T.E.R.” Skills 

Not all strategies work for all kids. The trick is to match the techniques with what works best with the child’s temperament and comfort level and the particular situation

Don’t forget to ask students for their input and additional ideas. Their creativity never ceases to amaze me!

1. -Befriend the Victim

Bystanders often don’t intervene because they don’t want to make things worse or assume the victim doesn’t want help. But research shows that if witnesses know a victim feels upset or wants help they are more likely to step in. Also, if a bystander befriends a victim, the act is more likely to get others to join the cause and stand up to the bully. A few ways bystanders can befriend victims:

  • Show comfort: Stand closer to the victim.
  • Wave other peers over“Come help!”
  • Ask if the victim wants support: “Do you need help?”
  • Empathize: “I bet he feels sad.”
  • Clarify feelings: “She looks upset.”

You can also encourage students to befriend a bullied after the episode. “That must have felt so bad.” “I’m with you. Sorry I didn’t speak out.” “That happened to me, too.” “Do you want me to help you find a teacher to talk to?” Though after the episode won’t reduce the bullying at the moment, it will help reduce the pain of both the targeted child and the witness. It may also help other children recognize there are safe ways to defend and support a targeted child.

2. -Use a Distraction

The right diversion can draw peers from the scene, make them focus elsewhere, give the target a chance to get away, and may get the bully to move on. Remember, a bully wants an audience, so bystanders can reduce it with a distraction.

One of the best distractions I’ve ever seen was a teen who saw bullying but did not feel safe stepping in to help (and most children as well as adults do not). So he got crafty. He unzipped his backpack and then walked nearby the scene and threw the backpack to the ground. Of course, he made it appear as though it was an accident, but it was a deliberate and brilliant act. “Oh no,” he said. “All my stuff is on the ground and the bell is going to ring. My grade will get dinged. Can anyone help?” And the teen drew the audience from the bully to help him pick up his papers. The target also had a chance to sneak to safety.

Ploys include:

  • Ask a question: “What are you all doing here?”
  • Use diversion: “There’s a great volleyball game going on! Come on!”
  • Make up false excuse to disperse a crowd: “A teacher is coming!”
  • Feigning interruption: “I can’t find my bus.”

3. S -Speak Out and Stand Up!

Speaking out can get others to lend a hand and join you. You must stay cool, and never boo, clap, laugh, or insult, which could egg the bully on even more. Students also must learn how to assert themselves and say that speaking up to a bully is the hardest of the six Bully Buster Strategies. The students in the photo are learning my “CALM Approach” when speaking up to a bully. Best yet, older students are teaching the skill to younger students. Stress that directly confronting a bully is intimidating and it’s a rare kid who can, but there are ways to still stand up to cruelty. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Show disapproval: Give a cold, silent stare.
  • Name it: “That’s bullying!”
  • Label it: “That’s mean!”
  • State disapproval: “This isn’t cool!” “Don’t do that!” “Cut it out!”
  • Ask for support: “Are you with me?”

4. T -Tell or Text For Help

Bystanders often don’t report bullying for fear of retaliation, so make sure they know which adults will support them, and ensure confidentiality. You must give students the option of anonymous reporting. An active bystander could:

  • Find an adult you trust to tell. Keep going until you find someone who believes you
  • Call for help from your cell.
  • Send a text to someone who can get help. Many schools now have a text service.
  • Call 911 if someone could be injured.

5. E -Exit Alone or With Others

Stress that bullies love audiences. Bystanders can drain a bully’s power by reducing the group size a few ways. Students bystanders could:

  • Encourage: “You coming?”
  • Ask: “What are you all doing here?”
  • Direct: “Let’s go!”
  • Suggest: “Let’s leave.”
  • Exit: If you can’t get others to leave with you, then walk away. If you stay, you’re part of the cruelty. Leaving means you refuse to be part. Just quietly leave the scene.

6. R -Give a Reason or Offer a Remedy

Research finds that bystanders are more likely to help when told why the action is wrong or what to do. Students could:

  • Review why it’s wrong: “This isn’t right!” “This is mean!” “You’ll get suspended.” “You’ll hurt him.”
  • Offer a remedy: “Go get help!” “Let’s work this out with Coach.”

Final Thoughts 

The right comments and behaviors can make peers stop, think, consider the consequences, and even move on. Those seconds are crucial and enough to stop the bullying or mobilize other students to step in and help.

Bystanders can make a difference. They can be mobilized to step in and reduce bullying-that is if they are taught how.

But it’s up to adults to show students safe ways to do so, help them practice those strategies so they are comfortable using them in the real world, and then support and believe them and acknowledge their courageous efforts.

Hundreds of students today skipped school because of peer intimidation and bullying. It’s time to rethink our strategies and teach bystanders how to step in safely and speak out against peer cruelty.

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Bullying-prevention and character expert Michele Borba, Ed.D. has spent the past three decades studying youth violence and bullying and worked with more than a million students, parents, educators, and law enforcement officials worldwide. The result is End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy: The Proven 6Rs of Bullying Prevention That Create Inclusive, Safe and Caring Schools. Based on the 6Rs: Rules, Recognize, Report, Respond, Refuse, and Replace, the book utilizes the strongest pieces of best practices and current research for ways to reduce cruelty and increase positive behavior support. Also included are guidelines for implementing strategies, nurturing empathy and caring relationships, collecting data, training staff, mobilizing students and parents, building social-emotional skills, and sustaining progress. The result is a proven framework that will reduce bullying, create safer more inclusive schools and produce more kind-hearted, empathetic children. End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy was released February 19th and is now available at amazon.com

How to Improve Your Child’s Thinking Skills Using Their Imagination

Last updated on April 11th, 2018 at 11:46 am

 Thinking, speaking or acting impulsively without planning or thinking things out poses social challenges for children.

We can help children better manage their impulsive thoughts, words, and actions by using a storytelling activity we call The Thought Bubble Technique. In this visual conversation activity, we help children think, write, draw, and talk about what characters in a story might be thinking, feeling, saying or doing. The Thought Bubble Technique encourages children to use their imaginations while building their thinking skills.

Here is how you do it.

Open a book with vivid imagery such as a Dr. Seuss book. Let your child or student turn the pages until he discovers a page he finds interesting. Tell your child, “We’re going to use our imaginations. We’re going to imagine a thought bubble is over the head of each of the characters on the page. Then we’re going to imagine what they might be thinking.”

By looking at the images on the page ask your child to make up a story about what’s happening on the page. What are the characters thinking? What are the characters saying? What are the characters doing? How are the characters feeling?

Help the child “THINK OUT” how is the thought, feeling or action helpful or not helpful? How might the other characters respond? How can the characters shift their thoughts, words, feeling or actions so that each story has a happier ending?

The key is to use the creative exploration of images to help the child thoughtfully reflect on how words, thoughts, feelings, and actions are prosocial, facilitating relationships or challenging causing others to feel uncomfortable, unhappy or withdrawn.

Use your own creative license, adapt the “Cognitive Conversation” with the child to help him or her see things in a new way. Thoughtful exploration leads to the mindful development of new thinking skills.

Download Your Copy of the Thought Bubble Technique here.

 

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Written for teachers, educators, and clinicians whose work involves playing, talking or teaching children who would benefit from better executive function and social-emotional learning skills, 70 Play Activities incorporates over 100 research studies into printable worksheets, handouts, and guided scripts with step-by-step directions, to empower children to learn and behave better. “With 70 Play Activities we aim to improve the trajectory of children’s learning by integrating the newest neuroscience with activities children love!” With over 70 activities designed to improve thinking, self-regulation, learning and behavior, your tool-kit will be full and your creative brain will be inspired to craft your own meaningful exercises. 70 Play Activities is available at amazon.com

 

9 Ways to Cultivate Courage in Your Kids to Find Their Inner Hero

Last updated on April 20th, 2018 at 08:34 am

How to cultivate courage for our bubble-wrapped kids so they find strength to face adversity and do the right thing.

Empathy Habit #8: MORAL COURAGE: Empathy is the miraculous quality that allows us to feel with others, but in order to act on those feelings kids need Moral Courage. Courage emboldens kids to speak out, step in, and help others and it is the eighth out of the Nine Crucial Empathy Building Habits in UnSelfie. We can cultivate courage. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get started. This is a Brave New World and children will need the skills and know-how to find that inner bravery to do the right thing. To read more about how this habit gives children the Empathy Advantage and how to cultivate it in children, refer to Chapter 8: Moral Courage in UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About Me World.

My favorite movie about courage is, “We Bought a Zoo.” One scene is especially powerful: The teen son admits to his dad that he’s crazy about a girl, but unless he musters the courage to tell her that, their relationship is over. His dad’s advice is priceless: “You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage – just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery – and I promise you that something great will come of it.”

The truth is that sometimes kids need gentle nudges to step out of their comfort zone and discover their inner strength. Our job is to help our children find their 20 seconds of safe courage, so they can do the right thing when their conscience or heart urge them to step in and help.

Why is it important for kids to be courageous? A bold child is more likely to withstand negative peer pressure, say “no” to temptations that run counter to your family’s values, and fight the good fight.

Courage also has surprise benefits: It boosts kids’ resilience, confidence, willpower, and mental health as well as their learning, performance, and school engagement.

The good news is that courage can be taught.We often make the mistake of thinking of courage as an elusive quality  that is locked into our DNA. But my research shows that bravery is made up of teachable skills.

Teaching those skills to our kids – regardless of GPA, gender or temperament (introverts or extroverts) – is how we can help our children learn the skills of courage. And that’s how we raise a generation of caring, courageous children who think WE, not ME.

9 Ways to Cultivate Courage and Stretch Kids’ Risk-Taking Muscles

Here are nine ways to stretch kids’ risk-taking muscles in our bubble-wrapped world, so they can face adversity and do the right thing:

1. Model courage. Kids who watch their parents stick their necks out to do the right thing are more likely to do the same. Let your child see you step out of your comfort zone, whether it’s tackling your fear of heights or speaking up to your boss. Then express how good it feels when you conquer your fear instead of taking a shortcut. Kids learn how to take on the tough challenges they face from witnessing how you tackle your own fears.

2.Talk about values and courage. Research finds that kids are more likely be courageous if they believe that their parents expect them to support those in need. Discuss bravery with your kids: Tell them, “Courage is making the choice to do what you know is right even if you are afraid.” Some parents develop a family courage mantra like “We find courage to do what’s right, even if it’s hard.” Or you might tell your child, “Our family speaks up and helps others.”

3. Stop bubble-wrapping and rescuing your kids. Always “fixing” children’s problems only makes them more dependent and reduces their ability to bravely seek their own solutions. It also sends a disturbing message: “I’ll help because you can’t do it alone.” If you’re “over-helping,” start building your child’s courage muscles by putting him in the driver’s seat. He – not you – tells his coach he can’t make practice. She apologizes to her pal without your assistance.

4. Encourage your kids to share their acts of bravery. Learning to be brave takes practice, so encourage your children to do something courageous every day, like introducing themselves to someone new, inviting a new classmate to play or standing up for a peer. Then take time to focus on their courageous breakthroughs. One dad I spoke with had his kids list their “brave successes” on paper strips, then stapled the strips together to make “courage chains.” A mom I talked to had her kids to share their brave deeds at dinner time.

5. Dispel the “Superman myth.” Many kids assume they need to look like a superhero to be courageous. Share stories of those who changed the world with their quiet, nonphysical brave acts. Jackie Robinson, the first black player in Major League baseball, was heckled because of his skin color. He showed great bravery by preserving and conducting himself in a professional manner on the field (where he excelled) as well as off it. Mahatma Gandhi – who would go on to be the leader of nonviolent civil disobedience – ran home after school every day as a child because he was too shy to talk to anyone. Rosa Parks, the African American Civil Rights activist who refused to give up her bus seat to white passengers, was described as “soft-spoken … timid and shy.”

6. Read about courageous kids. Share inspiring news and stories about children who stick their necks out for others. A couple of my favorite books for younger kids are Courage by Bernard Waber and “Brave Irene by William Steig. Check out these titles for older kids: “Wringer, by Jerry Spinelli and “Stand Up for Yourself and Your Friends by Patti Kelley Criswell and Angela Martini.

7. Encourage young kids take brave baby stepsInstead of picking her daughter up, a friend of mine helped her 3-year old find courage to cross a small bridge by empowering her. “Be brave, Clara,” she told her daughter. “You can do it.” Clara continued, repeating to herself, “Be brave, Clara!” And she learned something when she crossed the bridge: “I’m brave, Mommy! I’m brave!”

8. Teach kids to prioritize safety. Even as we teach our children to be brave, it’s still important to temper risk-takingCertainly, we want our children to be safe. So tell your child that safety is always the first priority. If someone could get hurt and the risk is too great, teach your kids to always get adult help or call 911 if needed. Encourage children to trust their instincts, when they have concerns that something is unsafe.

9. Teach your kids how to reduce their fears. If not kept in check, fear can be overwhelming. Teach your child simple strategies to be brave. You might encourage positive self-talk, such as saying, “I can handle this” or “I have courage to do this.” Or teach your child to take slow, deep breaths to find courage. Research finds younger children are more likely to share their fears with another child. Though you want them to be open with you, let them know it’s also OK to share their worries with a friend. Choose a fear reducer that works best for your child and then help her practice that until it becomes a habit.

For kids to thrive in today’s uncertain world, they will need courage and confidence. Let’s help them find their hero within and learn to be brave!

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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 NOW at amazon.com.

Connecting Kids to the World, One Class at a Time: Meet Empatico

Last updated on March 4th, 2018 at 02:21 pm

Empatico is the newest initiative of The Kind Foundation.

It is a free learning tool, an online platform designed to digitally connect classrooms from across the globe. The project wants to promote empathy in children by showing them how diverse the international community is. Teachers are able to connect to other classrooms and together they complete activities using live video conferencing.

We at Pediatric Safety thought this was a brilliant idea, so we caught up with Empatico’s Business Development Manager Christina Bruno and asked her to tell us more about the project.

Where did the inspiration for Empatico come from? 

Our vision is to create meaningful moments for students and teachers to realize the world is a bigger place than they knew and to foster a lifetime of curiosity, kindness, and empathy. When we started out, we knew many teachers were already doing this work – connecting their classrooms and providing unforgettable experiences for their students to meet peers around the world – and we wanted to make it as easy as possible so that more classrooms, no matter what their experience, have an opportunity to connect. Making global connections in order to understand our shared humanity has been a long-term passion of our founder, our team, and the educators we worked with to build Empatico, and we also believe it is particularly relevant in this current climate.

How has the feedback on the project been so far?

Teachers are already sharing with us the positive impact Empatico has had on their students. They’re learning what other communities look like, how their peers from different places play and contribute to their communities, and they’re starting to realize their commonalities and become curious about their differences. We’ve also received feedback on how easy it is to use Empatico – teachers are automatically matched with another classroom based on their availability and interest in activities, and our activity plans provide teachers with all the resources they need for a successful connection. We’re in our early days, though, and we know the opportunity to bring this experience to many more students is still ahead of us.

Perspective is one of the greatest allies in creating a more compassionate world. What other steps do you think parents and teachers can take to help children gain a broader perspective as they grow up?

We completely agree! Parents and teachers can do many things in their day-to-day conversations with children to reinforce the skills taught in Empatico activities, like critical thinking and perspective-taking. For example, parents and teachers can challenge assumptions and encourage students to explore the world to find out their own answers by asking questions about new experiences, like traveling to a new place or meeting new people. It’s important for children to realize that many people they meet will have a unique way of perceiving the world and a different way of doing things than they do. When children recognize such differences, help them get into the habit of asking: “What is life like for that person? Are there other pieces to the story that I’m missing?” Parents and teachers can show children the value in learning from different perspectives and help them understand how different perspectives can influence behavior as well as change over time. This can be reinforced in role play exercises or when reading stories, watching movies, or even during discussions with peers.

What were some of the challenges you had to overcome while developing this initiative?

One of the greatest challenges we face is how to bring live video connections to as many classrooms as possible around the world, even if they have limited access to technology. Empatico was designed as a classroom-to-classroom experience rather than a student-to-student experience as a way to partially solve this challenge, so classrooms only require one device rather than many. Of course, there’s never a guarantee that technology will work perfectly, but we hope to make it significantly easier. We’ve also made it a priority to open access and target outreach to countries all over the world, rather than restrict access.

We also face the challenge of this kind of virtual connection being a regular part of school–on the whole, few teachers regularly teach this way. There are many teachers who have been pioneers in global connection and education, and we hope Empatico can help encourage many many more teachers to use technology in this way. We believe the right tool can help move global education and connection from the pioneer teachers to the masses, and we think making an easy and intuitive tool like Empatico plays a big part in achieving this goal. All students deserve the opportunity to see the world.

The website says you are currently in the beginning stages of this project. How large do you anticipate it becoming in the future? What other features can we look forward to seeing?

By the end of 2020, our hope is to reach more than one million students. To accomplish this goal, we’ll focus first and foremost on building a great tool for and with teachers. In parallel, we’ll work with partners, including NGOs in the education space, networks of schools and teachers, districts, and Ministries of Education to build awareness and increase adoption. New features will depend largely on the feedback we receive from our earliest users. A few potential areas of expansion include providing content for different age groups (beyond 8-10 year olds), offering translation to languages beyond English, and providing asynchronous opportunities for classrooms to connect when live video is not possible. 

What is your favorite part of being involved in this initiative?

I’m excited to be part of something bigger that can potentially change the way people perceive and interact with each other around the world. If you think about the ripple effects of reaching students early in life with an experience like Empatico, we have the potential to reach millions of people over time.

My favorite part is that it’s hard to choose just one reason to love Empatico… Our activities prepare students for future success by building 21st century skills like respectful communication, critical thinking, perspective-taking, and collaboration. And we combine the best parts of technology with the best aspects of humanity to ultimately help students better navigate their classrooms, communities, and world. What’s not to love?!

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After we found out about Empatico, we mentioned it to one of our PedSafe Experts, internationally recognized child character development and empathy expert Dr. Michele Borba. As it turns out, not only had she heard of it, but she had already spoken to them about the project.

We asked her to share her thoughts with us.

“New research reveals that empathy plays a surprising role in predicting kids’ happiness and success. Rather than being a nice “add-on” to our kids’ development-it is, in fact, integral to their current and future success, happiness, and well-being. And empathy the good news is that it is a quality that can be taught and a talent that kids can improve, like riding a bike or learning a foreign language.”

 

“We are more likely to empathize with those “like us”- our same gender, race, income, educational background, and culture. But we are raising our children in a global world where they will be exposed to differences. It’s why Forbes urges companies to adopt empathy and perspective-taking principles and the Harvard Business Review named it as one of the essential ingredients for leadership success and excellent performance.” Helping children step out of their comfort zones, widen their circles of caring and experience different perspectives: like visiting museums, reading books with diverse characters, having a variety of friends. Empatico is a powerful way to open their hearts to children of different cultures. It’s all why we must get kids to switch their focus from “I, Me, My. Mine” to “We, Us, Our, Ours.” And it’s up to adults to offer real and meaningful experiences to help them do so.”

 

Michele Borba, Ed.D. author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World

Cultivating empathy is without a doubt one of the most important things we can do to progress our global society. We are grateful for businesses and authors like The Kind Foundation and Dr. Borba for setting an example and helping create positive change.