Our concern for our fellow man has declined over 40% during the last 10 years particularly among our young people. This was reported recently by the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center. Even though we are more connected to each other than in any time in history through the internet, cell phones, FaceTime TM, ViberTM and SkypeTM , young students entering college find it increasingly difficult to feel compassion toward each other.
Our schools in the Concept network are devoted to changing the trajectory of our students’ lives. Even though our curriculum focuses of the STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) fields, we are also dedicated to preparing our students for tomorrow and the world they will enter into as adults in a few years. Empathy, or showing compassion for others is not the same as sympathy says the College of Health Care Professionals. In their current definition:
“Empathy is understanding how another person feels or putting yourself in their shoes. Sympathy is the acknowledgement of another’s hardship and providing them comfort and assurance.”
It may be because empathy is not detected by our five senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing or taste. It is more of a conscious effort that you have to actually work at practicing! But, why do we need to practice empathy? Isn’t looking out for #1—US—-the priority?
In an age where violence is glamorized and life is held cheaply in video games, in movies and on television, we regularly see others humiliated, shamed and bullied. In some movies and games, the more moral destruction—-the better your score as a player or the more satisfaction as a viewer!
We need a kinder, gentler generation to come after us. Here is 5 ways to help your child(ren) become successful at practicing empathy which may be the most valuable skill they learn!
- Monitor your child(ren)’s computer time. As their screen time goes up, their ability to feel the pain of others goes down. Mainly because there is no real face-to-face interaction. Just a screen.
What can you do? – Balance screen time with face time. Explain the difference and make sure that your young person engages with others face-to-face as much (or even more) than they are online.
- WAY too much information! Research says students receive over 1000 messages per day between FaceBook posts, tweets, commercial advertisements, emails etc.
What can you do? – Teach your child to filter information and keep what’s important and discard what is not. Ask them the question, “What really matters here?” They will not automatically know what is important so it is essential that you talk them through this process. Unfortunately, emotional connection is the first to go when there is information overload.
- Consequences rarely get enforced in virtual reality. When your child(ren) watches a TV show, a movie or plays a video game were others get hurt in some way and there are no consequences, they begin to associate bad behavior with the concept that they can do anything and nothing will happen.
What can you do? Well Parents….when YOU need to hand out consequences for bad behavior in real life, stick to it! Consistent enforcement will teach them that valuable lesson that they WILL have to pay. Also, have a talk with them about the difference between fantasy and reality.
- Role Models are needed. Parents…we can start with ourselves! Children need models to follow when they face tough situations that hurt others.
What can you do? Help your child(ren) put words to their feelings. Helping them find the right word that expresses their emotions helps them to begin to understand the feelings of others. Expressing our feelings about a particular situations models healthy empathy too. Without lecturing or scolding or belaboring the point. It’s a good way to show your capacity for empathy too.
- Mine! Mine! Mine! I think we can all agree, nothing is worse than a selfish child. Good grades are great, but if the son or daughter is selfish, accomplishments are just hollow victories.
What can you do? Teach your children to give. If they receive allowances, teach them to give a small portion (10% is usually good) to a charity, a homeless person or a friend whose parents cannot afford an allowance for their child. If you give your chid(ren) the power to choose, tis can turn into a very beautiful learning experience for them,
We all need to help each other. This is the Holiday season where the opportunities to reach out to others who are going through hard times or are less fortunate than ourselves are abundant!
As your child matures and starts to show compassion for others, catch them in the act and reward their behavior! It can just be a smile of approval or a pat on the back to let them know you approve of their good deed. But you know….an good ole ice cream cone once in a while wouldn’t hurt either!
Happy Holidays to the Families of Concept Schools!
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