Empathy, featured

Teaching Kids Empathy

14

What is Empathy?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, empathy is:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

In other words, empathy is the ability to understand the feelings and emotions of another person.  It is the ability to “put yourself in their shoes” and try to understand what they are going through emotionally.

11

Why is Teaching/Modeling Empathy Important? 

Why should we as parents and caregivers explicitly teach and model the concept of empathy?  Because Empathy is a LEARNED trait.  Everyone is born with the ability to feel empathy but many of us need to develop skills in order to understand and feel sensitive towards the feelings and emotions of others.

9

Ways to Teach Empathy

Talk About Feelings–Teaching our children about feelings, and how to name those feelings, is the most critical skill in developing their emotional intelligence.  When you or your child are feeling a particular emotion, name it for them.  Help them to understand when they are feeling joy, sadness, jealousy or anger.  Once they understand these feelings in themselves, help them to recognize them in others.  Practice role playing with them about how to react when people they interact with feel a certain way.  My daughter has a My Mood, My Choices flipbook.  This book not only teaches her to name her emotions but gives her some ideas for activities she can do to help change the emotion or celebrate it.  She now gives suggestions to the rest of the family for things they can do when they are feeling a certain way.  This is a great example of empathy.

Model Empathy–You are your child’s greatest teacher! Children are watching all that we do and often model the behaviors they see in us. It is important for adults to model empathy so that children can learn to grasp this important skill.  Show empathy and compassion to the people you meet and do kind things for others.  Most important (and sometimes the hardest), show empathy for the people living in your home.  When your child is feeling emotional, try to empathize with them and remember what it was like when you were a child.  When you are feeling a certain emotion, help them to empathize with you.

Help Others–Volunteering and helping people in need is a great way to help your children to develop empathy.  Recently while serving lunch in the park to the homeless, a man came up to the backside of the table and asked for some water.  The two adult volunteers he approached stood frozen, unsure of how to answer him.  Turning to see this interaction, I jumped in and said, “Of course sir,” and grabbed him a bottle of water.  My son said, “Mom you broke the rules, he is supposed to wait in line and get his lunch and water just like everyone else.  I took both kids aside and said, “Did you see his face?  He desperately needed water and I was in the power to be able to grant that basic need.  Imagine how you would feel if you were desperate for water and I said you had to wait in line for 20 minutes to get it.”  Our time volunteering gives us so many teachable moments in empathy and kindness.

Read Stories and Put Yourself in Their Shoes–Reading quality stories to your children (no matter their age) is a great way to help them to practice the skill of empathy.  Throughout the story, encourage your child to “put themselves into the shoes” of the character and ask what they think the character may be feeling.   We have a great list of books to help talk about empathy with your kids.  Check out our Kids in Service Book Corner.

Practice Mindfulness–Teaching our children to be mindful is an important skill in helping them to get in touch with their own feeling and emotions.  Learning to be mindful will then help them to learn to be compassionate and empathetic to others.  Kids in Service has many resources for helping you and your family to create a practice of mindfulness in your home.  Click HERE to find those resources.

Family Resources

The kids and I recently stumbled upon Leon Logothetis and his work in kindness.  Leon is nicknamed the Kindness Guy and has incredible stories and adventures to share that all surround kindness.  The kids and I started watching his show The Kindness Diaries on Amazon Prime (season 1, season 2 can be found on Netflix).  We all LOVE this show and I have not seen an episode yet that has not left me in happy tears.  It is a wonderful show to prompt rich discussions as a family around empathy, kindness and gratitude. I’d recommend it for kids ages 6 and up and most definitely for ALL TEENS and ADULTS!!

51maxe94YLL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

I just ordered got my hands on this book and can not put it down!!  I highly recommend it for parents of ALL ages!  Here is what the publisher says about it: Teens today are forty percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—which goes hand-in-hand 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, a lack of empathy hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate, and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy.

In UnSelfie Dr. Borba pinpoints the forces causing the empathy crisis and shares a revolutionary, researched-based, nine-step plan for reversing it.

Teen Resources

Because of You–This website is for teens and it is a wonderful resource to show how their words and actions can affect other people. This site is full of videos and resources for parents and teens and a great way to discuss the topic of bullying and empathy with our teens. “By encouraging self-reflection and focusing on specific actions, our goal is to inspire this generation to create a more empathetic and inclusive culture around them.” –Beauseofyou.org

PBS Learning Media–This is another great resource for teens and parents.  Here they have videos and resources that discuss empathy, gratitude, resiliency and kindness.

teen-books-that-teach-empathy-young-adult-2057038661-1569163008566.jpg

Child Resources

32fdea109d7b6eb4c39d3434b00ec0f4

104b3887809806162c1ad73a3482b3b2.jpg

 

 

Empathy, featured

Books For Empathy

Books

 

61IlThKnBgLYou, Me and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders is a great book for introducing young children to the concept of empathy.  This simple and sweet story follows Quinn as he models empathy in many ways for the readers. This book The back of the book contains discussion questions and two pages of activities that you can do with your children to promote empathy, kindness and compassion.   This sweet book would be great for ages 3 and up.

 

51eRyqDHk0L._SX418_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgMy Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood–This is the sweet story about an immigrant girl who feels lost in her new country.  A girl in the park is kind to her and despite their language barrier they become friends.  Slowly she learns the language with the help of her new friend and her new home does not seem as cold and scary.

81CDZxMMR2L.jpgSomeone New by Anne Sibley O’Brien–This book is the story of 3 new children immigrating to America from 3 different countries.  They come to school and  do not speak English and the children in their class work to find ways to reach out to them.  It is a beautiful story about even though we may seem very different on the outside, we have so much connecting us as humans on the inside.

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams is a great example that you can make a BIG difference right in your own home if you work hard and make sacrifices.  The main character does come home with her mother to a house fire.  This may be scary for some young children but is done in a gentle way and shows the love of the community and neighborhood and how they rallied around the family after they lost everything.  This book is about family, love, kindness and hard work.  I would recommend this book to ages 5 and up.

51Ib1uey6CL._AC_US436_QL65_The Invisible Boy was written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton.  The Illustrations in this book are wonderful.  Life is very gray and dull for Brian because nobody seems to notice him or include him.  When a new child arrives in class, that all changes for Brian and slowly the illustrations change to full color as more and people start to notice him.  This book is a wonderful example of how one simple act of kindness and a little empathy can make such a big impact on another person.  I’d recommend this book to children ages 4 and up.

71L8YiEAL0LI am Human is another TREASURE written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter Reynolds.  I LOVE this writer/illustrator team and have ALL of their books.  Their books do such a great job of packing in a powerful message for kids while entertaining them with fun illustrations. I am Human focuses on all of the ways that make us human (the good and the bad).  It touches on feelings, dreams, making mistakes, compassion, forgiveness and making good choices.  This book would be great to share with ages 4 and up.

 

image.png

The Lorax is my FAVORITE Dr. Seuss book and one of my top 10 FAVORITE children’s books (I also love the original movie from the 70s).  The story has an important environmental message told in a child friendly way.  This book is a wonderful way to spark rich discussions about empathy with your kids. This book is wonderful for ages 3+.

 

51D19adrnlL._SX378_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

This timeless tale about bullying is perfect for ages 6 and up and is a book EVERY child should hear. From the publisher: Eleanor Estes’s The Hundred Dresses won a Newbery Honor in 1945 and has never been out of print since. At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies. Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.” 

81TdKijWwWL

My children and I DEVOURED the book Wonder by RJ Palcio!!  It is a fictional story based on a real life experience that happened to the author, R.J. Palacio.  This book has endearing characters and the book shifts from one character to the next so that you get the different perspectives.  This BEAUTIFUL book is filled with powerful messages of kindness, acceptance and being yourself.  I believe this book is for EVERYONE ages 7 and up.

 

41v1b8WP1qL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Fish in a Tree follows 6th grade Ally as she struggles in class to fit in and hide the fact that she can not read. Ally’s dad is deployed and their military life has led her to be enrolled in 6 schools in 6 years.  It is easy to fall in love with the characters in this book and your heart struggles right along with Ally as she tries so hard to be like everyone else.   If you enjoyed Wonder, you will definitely like this beautiful story about celebrating who you are and the gifts that make us all different. This book would be great for ages 8 and up.

 

41l+Ug74d7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe kids and I are currently reading The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden.  This is a tough book and will inspire a lot of rich discussion about empathy, courage and kindness.  The book is about a seventh grade girl named Zoey who has a lot of responsibilities and worries for such a young girl.  As Zoey tries to navigate her unstable home life and the challenges of middle school her teacher forces her to join the debate club.  This will change her life in more ways than she ever imagined.  This book heartbreaking and challenging book would be great for ages 10 and up.

 

 

featured, Making a Difference

Service Birthday Party Ideas

Birthday Party Service Ideas

Celebrating birthdays is such an important ritual for children.  They love to gather with family and friends, eat party food, play games, open presents and blow out the candles on their birthday cake.  Some families are choosing to transition the theme of their child’s birthday from one of GETTING to one of GIVING.

Some families are asking for donations in lieu of birthday gifts for their children’s party. The child then delivers the items collected to the food pantry or animal shelter.  This is a wonderful concept but can be difficult for many children.  You may want to ease in to this concept with having a service project be an activity at the party or asking folks to bring a smaller gift and a donation from their cabinets for the local food pantry.

Here are some ideas that you and your child may incorporate for their next birthday gathering to spread a little love and kindness in honor of their special day.

For All Ages

Donate Items to Goodwill or a Local Shelter (one for each year)–Every birthday and Christmas, my children donate one item for each year they have been on this planet.   This practice of cleaning out their spaces and donating their gently used toys, books and games is so important as we teach them to let go of things that are no longer serving them.  My husband and I join in on this activity and since we are a bit older we include paper purging (catalogs, magazines and old bills) into our number.

Recycled Party--My son once had a birthday of all wrapped hand-me downs.  People brought gently used toys, games and clothing items as gifts.  Zach loved his “new to him” gifts and nobody had to spend any money.  It was a great lesson in reusing and reducing waste.

Food Pantry Party or Animal Shelter Party–Food pantries and Animal Shelters are always looking for non-perishable donations.  Asking guests to bring donations in lieu of gifts or a canned good with a small present is a great way to organize this party.  Make a collection spot where everyone can see the items. Have the children count the donated items at the end of the party and have the birthday child thank everyone and share where the donations will be going.  Make a big deal of the Donation Day for your child and make sure to take a picture of them donating the items to the pantry or shelter (send it to communityserviceforkids@gmail.com for them to be featured on our website).

4

Birthday Box Party–Not every child in our country has the chance to celebrate their birthday.  Consider asking party goers to bring the contents to make a birthday box in lieu of a gift.  During the party, the group can work to assemble the birthday boxes and your child can go and donate them to the local food pantry.  Check out our post on birthday boxes for more information.

Party with Seniors--Who doesn’t love a party? Many residents at your local nursing home would LOVE to celebrate a birthday with your child.  Contact your local nursing home and see if this is a possibility and if there are any food restrictions.  Invite some of your children’s friends, bring some balloons, games to play (they LOVE bingo with prizes) and bring some treats to share.  This is a great way to spread some love and kindness.

Book and Pajama Drive–Have each party guest bring their favorite children’s book and/or a pair of new pajamas and donate them to the Pajama Program.  For this party you could have everyone dress in their PJ’s, bring a stuffed friend (if they are young) and read your child’s favorite story to all of them.  Older kids can enjoy a sleepover party with this theme.

For Older Children

Sole Hope Shoe Cutting Party–Sole Hope is a wonderful organization that helps to make shoes out of old jeans for children in Uganda.  These shoes prevent the children from getting painful jiggers in their feet.  Jiggers make it difficult to walk and thus the children can’t perform their daily chores, walk to school or play with friends.  Organizing a shoe cutting party is a great birthday alternative.  Order the kit here, have everyone bring a $10 donation toward the shoe cutting kit cost and a pair or two of old jeans (no holes) .  Put on some music, chat while you work and think about all of the children you will be helping on the other side of the world.

7

Make Dignity Bags or Homeless Bags–Being a homeless has many challenges and homeless bags can make life a little easier.  These bags contain hygiene items, snacks, uplifting messages and so much more. Dignity bags can make life a little easier for homeless women.  Consider organizing a Homeless Bag party where everyone brings items to contribute and then you assemble them together.  Check out our post about Homeless and Dignity Bags here.

Blanket PartyProject Linus is always looking for blankets for children in crisis.  Making no-sew fleece blankets is a great project for a birthday party.  As host, you can provide the blanket materials or in lieu of gifts have each child bring the supplies they need to make a blanket.  This would be a great slumber party idea! Click here for more information.

Other Service Project Activity Ideas

Paint Kindness Rocks

Make placemats for Meals on Wheels

Paint pictures for Hospice

Make Seeds of Kindness

Have a Kid Knits Party

featured, Kindness

Project Seeds of Kindness

14

A few years ago my Kids in Service group made Seeds of Kindness.  After reading the book, Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson, I was inspired to find a simple way for the kids in my group to start their own Pay it Forward project.  

Each family was given this cute little smile bag that I found on Oriental Trading and some emoji magnets (also from Oriental Trading).  The kids made happy pictures with uplifting messages on them, “You are Special!”Thanks for Being YOU!” and enclosed the magnet inside of their folded up picture.  They were then encouraged to pass out their Seeds of Kindness to the people that they encountered over the summer.

15

Will you and your family accept this mission of KINDNESS?

Your Mission:  Create simple Seeds of Kindness to help brighten the day of the people you meet when you are out and about in the world.

Supplies:  paper, drawing materials, a bag to hold the Seeds of Kindness so you can take them on the go (a ziplock works great).

Optional Supplies: fun magnets, a dollar scratch ticket, single stemmed flowers, a happy eraser, a pretty stone, $5 gift card for a coffee (the possibilities are endless).

Procedure: Work as a family to create happy and uplifting drawings.  Everyone who can hold a crayon without eating it can participate in this part! Write uplifting messages on the drawings (You are Special, You are One of a Kind, Thanks for Being You, You are going a Great Job, Thanks for Being a Light in this World, Thanks for your Smiles etc.).  Fold up the drawings into small squares (“seeds”) and put them in a bag of your choice so you can take them with you on the go.

Optional:  Add a fun magnet, a dollar scratch ticket, a flower a happy eraser, a pretty stone or a $5 gift card for coffee or lunch to the seeds.

Keep the Seeds of Kindness with you in the car or while you are on the go and when you see someone who has gone above and beyond or someone who looks like they could use a pick me up, give them a Seed of Kindness.  Perhaps the mailman looks a little blue, the woman at the checkout was extra friendly or a mom with screaming children looks like she could use some kindness.  These Seeds of Kindness are meant to be spread around and given to EVERYONE.  My family loves to give them to the toll attendants (along with a $5 gift card at the Holidays) and their reactions are alway priceless.

featured, Kindness, Making a Difference, Pay it Forward Summer, Service Projects for Families

Art for Hospice

Make a Difference May

It is hard not to smile when you look at the children’s artwork on this page.  In January, our Kids in Service NH group painted cheerful paintings for the patients at a hospice house. Volunteers visit the residents and ask if they would like to choose one of our paintings to cheer up their room.  The painting of their choice gets hung on their bulletin board and it is our hope that everyone who visits their room is brought a little joy in a very difficult situation.

51070801_2509129122447855_8101478612944814080_o

This spring, we partnered with the hospice house again and painted small terra cotta pots.  I sealed each one with glaze and then we planted a flower in each pot.  The 20 pots were delivered to the patients staying at the hospice house and other hospice patients around the community.

Make a Difference May-11

Creating artwork to cheer up hospice patients is a WONDERFUL service project for all ages.  You could paint uplifting paintings, make blank greeting cards with the children’s drawings on the front or paint pots like we did.  I recommend that you reach out to the volunteer coordinator at your local hospice house and see if they would like children’s art donations.

Hospice is a very difficult and sad concept for young children.  I suggest that you tell your children that you are painting happy art for people who are sick in the hospital.  That is all they need to know to be invested in this project.  I am sure that their art donation will not only bring a little joy into the patient’s heart but the hearts of their family as well.

featured, Gratitude, Kindness, Quick Service Projects

10 Quick Projects You Can Start TODAY!

10 Quick Family Service Projects You can Start TODAY

All of us want to find time in our busy lives for service projects.  We know how important it is to teach our children the valuable lessons that go along with serving others (empathy, kindness, gratitude, courage, selflessness etc.) but unfortunately those well meaning service projects are the first thing cut off the to-do list when life gets too hectic.

Here are 10 QUICK service projects that you can do with your kids TODAY, with items you have around the house.  All of them can be completed in under an hour.  I hope that this list inspires to you start a service project TODAY and learn as a family the valuable lesson of serving others.

14

  1. Project Dollar Store--This is a family favorite and a project we do at least once a year. A dollar may not seem like much but this simple project can make a big difference in someone’s life.  Click HERE to learn more about this SECRET MISSION OF LOVE!

72.  Project Appreciation--For this SWEET project you need to gather everyone in the kitchen and think of a community group that you would like to thank.  Click HERE for more details about this MISSION OF APPREICATION.

1

3.  Make Placemats for Meals on Wheels–This is a project for all ages (well anyone who can hold a crayon or paint brush).  First, click on the Meals on Wheels website and contact your local Meals on Wheels. Ask them if you and your family could make placemats for their clients.  We have done this and it is an easy and fun service project.  Gather some thicker paper (we used card stock) and some art supplies.  My Kids Community Service club has done this a few times and all of the children (ages 2 and up) colored happy pictures to make the seniors smile while they ate their lunch.  I mailed in our placemats but Meals on Wheels is always looking for volunteers to help deliver the lunches (and kids are welcome to participate).  If you homeschool, have younger kids or are looking for a summer project, contact your local Meals on Wheels about donating your time.

cheers-2

4. Make a Kindness Jar--This is the Kindness Jar that sits near our dining table.  My children made it with our kids community service group last winter and it is always out as a constant reminder to think of others and BE KIND.  Click HERE to learn how you and your family can make your own Kindness Jar.  The post includes a FREE Printable of Kind Deeds to fill your jar with.

2

5.  Collection for the Homeless–People who are homeless are always in need of gently used clothing (especially warm clothing in the cold winter months), new toiletries or toys that are in good shape.  Give everyone in your family a bag or a box and challenge them to fill it with as many quality items as they can.  Once you fill your bags or boxes drop them off at the local homeless shelter.  This service project is not only helping people in need but it is also challenging the family to declutter.  This is a win-win in my book!

4

6.  Clean Up Your Neighborhood–Grab a few trash bags, some work gloves and head out in your neighborhood or to your local park.  It always SHOCKS me how careless people are with their trash.  My husband does a mini clean up of our street with the kids once a month because of all the trash that the passing cars leave behind.  This is an easy and important service project for your community.

1

7.  Make a Christmas Jar–This project can be done at ANY TIME of year.  We started our third Christmas jar right after Christmas but our first jar was started only a month before the big day.  Click HERE to learn about this WONDERFUL family project.

amillionthanks_logo

8.  Write Letters to Soldiers-This project is so easy to do and younger kids can team up with older kids or parents to make this a family project.  If you know someone in the military, consider making writing letters to them a regular activity.  If you do not know someone in the military, consider writing letters and sending them through A Million Thanks.  This site has drop off locations across the USA for letters and cards.  Here is what one solider had to say about this wonderful organization:

“I want to say thank you for what you are doing for all of us, and especially for the men and women overseas that take comfort in knowing people like you are thinking about them.”

3

9.  Project Sticky Note–This is such a fun and simple project. All you need are some sticky notes and writing tools.  Write a lot of different uplifting messages on the sticky notes (“You are Special”, “You are Loved”, “You are Beautiful”, etc.).  Now comes the fun part, put the sticky notes in places where you think people may need an uplifting message.  We have hid them in library books, hung them on mirrors in public restrooms and put them on car windows on a dry day.  You can have the kids hang them on school lockers or even hand them out to people who look like they may need a pick me up. My husband often leaves us sticky notes if he is going away on business.  It always makes us smile to find the notes of love and encouragement.  The key to this project is to make sure that you do not litter and that you are always respectful.

5

10.  Write a Thank You Note--Have you thanked your parent or care giver lately?  Have you thanked your teacher, your coach, bus driver or librarian for all they do for you? Did you recently receive a gift?  EVERYONE loves mail!  Bless one or more people in your life with a card or note thanking them for all they do to help and support you.  This is a project for all ages, as the littles can draw and adults can scribe the note of thanks and gratitude. Make writing thank you notes a regular practice in your home.  This simple activity will teach an important lesson in gratitude, respect and connection (not to mention it will help them practice their writing).