Here is our first, of many, podcasts! We are very excited to share this with you. This month we are focusing on empathy. In this episode, our founder Justina Bryant talks you through Dr. Riess' E.M.P.A.T.H.Y formula, and she encourages all of us to continue to teach, grow, and develop our empathy skills. We hope you enjoy this episode.
Blog reference link: A Message of Kindness: A Kindness Project about Empathy
We are still working on uploading the program to iTunes. We will keep you posted when our official site is up and running.
Can empathy be taught or is it genetically hard-wired? You may have heard people say; “You either have empathy, or you don’t," “Everyone is born with a certain amount of empathy,” “Girls have more empathy than boys.”
In Dr. Riess’ TEDx talk, she reveals her scientific findings that humans CAN develop greater empathy skills. As an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Riess has administered numerous studies using her E.M.P.A.T.H.Y. formula. Her formula has proven to increase empathy skills among those who use it.
Additionally, Daniel Coyle the author of “The Talent Code" states, a person can change his or her behavior and habits by growing myelin. You "grow" myelin by doing deep practice of a particular skill. Furthermore, in the book “Mindset,” Carol Dweck points out that if we develop a growth mindset, we can change the way we view and do things. In other words, you can teach an old dog new tricks if they have an open mindset.
It is important to continue to practice empathy skills with students of all ages, from pre-school to high school. We’ve put together a fun kindness activity to help you and your students improve your empathy skills.
Step 1: Open with a video
Show your students the age-appropriate video about empathy. We suggest you show the elementary video link to ALL grades K-12 before showing the age-appropriate video. Why? The elementary video is easy to understand.
Step 2: Read stories
Print off all three stories that we adapted from Character Education:
For younger grades, have a parent volunteer or teacher read the stories to the class. For older grades, ask for three student volunteers to read each story to the class. If your classroom has the capability, you could project the stories.
Step 3: Discuss the empathy formula
Write Dr. Riess' empathy formula on the board.
E = eye contact
M = movement
P = posture
A = affect or expressed emotions
T = tone of voice
H = hearing the whole person without judgment
Y = your response
You can do this discussion as a whole group or pair students into smaller groups. Discuss how the empathy formula is unfolding in each of the stories. Ask the students to come up with specific examples from each story. For instance, in the story "Puppies For Sale," the last line - “With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup.”
Step 4: Brainstorm real issues
As a class brainstorm and write out a list of struggles that people might be going through; this can be a family pet that has just passed, a grandparent who is sick, a bad grade in class, someone who is struggling with a particular friendship, being stressed out about an exam, etc.
Step 5: Give a message of kindness
Ask your students (and yourself) to get out a piece of paper. Have them to write down a name of someone they know who has been struggling or maybe just needs a little kindness done for them. Invite your students to write a note or draw a picture for the person they wrote down. Then ask your students to give his or her message of kindness to that person as soon as it is possible.
Share your stories, pictures, and thoughts with us! #ichoose2bekind
Today, most teen bullying happens digitally, on texting apps and social media platforms. If you have a teen who’s the new kid in school, he or she might know this truth all too well. It’s easy for teens to feel alienated after they start school in a whole new place, and other kids can use those nerves as fuel for teasing, harassing, or otherwise bullying your child online.
What is cyberbullying, exactly? For the non-tech-savvy parent, it may be hard to comprehend how abuse online could leave lasting damage on a teen’s psyche. However, hurtful messages, comments, and photographs posted online not only hurt when they’re posted — they can harm your child every time he or she, or someone else, views them. And since most teens have regular access to the internet via smartphones and home computers, abuse that happens online follows them everywhere.
In cyberbullying, social dynamics that are considered typical to middle schools and high schools become amplified. Entire cliques of friends may join up to make a Facebook page mocking a vulnerable teen, and risque photos sent to a crush can become public online. Outside the purview of parents and teachers and with the protection of anonymity, teens are emboldened of behave in ways they wouldn’t in the real world.
If your teen has just started school in a new city, keep an eye out for signs of cyberbullying. Your child will be eager to fit in at this vulnerable time, making him or her less likely to turn to parents when there’s a problem with classmates. Here’s what to look for:
If your teen is being cyberbullied at his or her new school, he or she will need your support getting through it. The first thing to do is help your teen block bullies on various online accounts or delete certain accounts entirely. Depending on the severity of the behavior, you may want to take screenshots as evidence first. If the website or app has a policy that bans harassment, reporting bullying could get the user banned. If the bullying involved sexual behavior, such as sharing explicit photographs, it might be appropriate to report them to the police.
Once the immediate threat has been quelled, it’s time to focus on supporting your teen. You want your teen to feel welcome and safe in his or her new school, but that can’t happen as long as your teen is being intimidated and abused online.
First, emphasize to your child that he or she is not to blame for the bullying. Bullies choose the most vulnerable people to be their targets, and as the new kid at school, your teen was an easy choice. That doesn’t mean your teen can’t make friends and find his or her place in a new community.
Next, alert teachers and administrators to their students’ online activities. While sometimes bullying is limited to the virtual realm, other times cyberbullying is paired with in-person abuse. Ask that trusted school staff monitor for signs that your teen is experiencing bullying at school.
Finally, make sure your home is a safe space for your teen to retreat. The most difficult part of cyberbullying is that you can’t escape it, even at home. Make sure there are plenty of fun things to do at home, so your teen isn’t spending all his or her time online. Connect over shared meals and fun family activities that provide a positive outlet for your child. Turn your child’s room into a relaxing sanctuary with all his or her favorite decorations and books, but keep technology out of the bedroom as much as is reasonable. Encourage your teen to stay in touch with his or her old friends — a support system is crucial when it comes to coping with the emotional challenges of bullying.
Switching schools should be a fun time for your teen — a chance to try on a new identity, make new friends, and expand his or her horizons. The last thing you want is for cyberbullying to tarnish that experience. Keep the conversation open, so you know how your child is adjusting to his or her new home.
Image via Pixaba
Guest Blog Post by Laura Pearson. Laura is the co-creator of Edutude.net. She believes that every student has great potential, and wants to help bright young minds that don’t feel engaged in the traditional classroom setting.
Things Laura Loves Doing:
Reading | Writing | Advocating for Education
Ask Laura About:
Helping students and parents overcome educational obstacles (and she's not bad at trivia!)
Laura's Act of Kindness:
To give somebody the gift of a book that complements their interest and/or personality
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Note From the Founder
Hello. I am the founder of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge Program.