RYC Youth Educator Jessica Lodato (Miss Jess) helped Rye's 3rd graders understand empathy and why it is important to nurture in our daily lives.
Having a sense of empathy goes a long way in leading a rich and successful life.
Empathy is about connection. It is being able to recognize a feeling or emotion in an individual, and feeling with that person, without judgment. It’s being there in the moment with them and/or simply being aware of a moment when someone might need a friend.
For the children in 3rd grade, it was defined as “the ability of one individual to understand the feelings of another and to act with consideration towards those feelings.”
We explored the wide range of feelings we all go through as individuals - the kids had so much to offer. Together we worked to understand the soup of emotions we all can go through at any given period. For example: joy, happiness, excitement and gratefulness all kind of go together but there are in fact times when one might feel happiness and excitement but worried or nervous as well. At other times we may be feeling sad but still feel a sense of gratefulness and peace.
Through different vignettes I shared with the class we explored all the different soupy emotions someone might feel and how we might be helpful to a person in that position. The children agreed that by imagining being in the shoes of the character they were better able to understand how they might help -- and really want to. Things got really interesting when the children started to share their own stories and work through all the different feelings they went through and how they can apply that experience to someone else in a similar situation. That’s where the concept of empathy really began to speak to them. It was really something to see!
Being aware of one’s feelings is an essential component of being able to provide empathy for another. It’s good to keep our eyes open to see opportunities where we can help our children get in touch with their feelings. A great way to assist our children in getting in touch with their feelings is by sharing our own. In moments of happiness, just simply saying out loud that you feel happy will resonate with your child. And if you are feeling a bit blue or confused it’s great to voice those moments, too.
We not only lead by example when we share our feelings, we are also being present in the moment and opening the door for our child to be as well. When sharing our feelings, we can take an opportunity to inquire how our child is feeling at that moment as well. This type of give and take conversation goes a long way in building a platform in which our children are more self aware of how they are feeling and therefore will be able to better navigate some of the tougher times in their lives and to help others do the same.