What does empathy mean to a child?
This term our Growth Mindset focus is on the importance of empathy – but how do we teach this to children?
At its simplest, empathy is understanding the feelings and emotions of other people, of greater importance than sympathy, which is often thought of as a feeling for someone; it is instead feeling with that person. It is, as one of our younger pupils explained, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and understanding their point of view.
When we are trying to be empathetic towards someone, we listen and think before we act or speak and try to support that person as best we can. This can be challenging but it is important to teach this to children and help them to understand that this mindset, in its basic form, means we must treat others as we want to be treated ourselves. (sound familiar?)
Research shows that the more empathy children display, the less likely they are to be unkind and more likely they are to help others, hence the importance of teaching empathy to even the youngest members of our school. Research also suggests that people who are introduced to the concept of empathy early in life are more likely to achieve long lasting emotional benefits, have better social skills and fewer problems with relationships.
As a school we are coming to the end of two years of a Growth Mindset programme and this has proved to be very successful with a new ‘learning muscle being introduced each term. Courage to try new things, and Resilience to bounce back when matters do not initially go well, were taken up well by all the children while Reflection was tricky for younger children. Responsibility for people and the world went well, as did Kindness with many, many instances recorded.
It will be interesting to see how Empathy is taken up by our pupils.