Books, Children, Musings

Reading: Empathy Training

One of the greatest complaints I have heard from parents, grandparents, and the general public concerning children is a simple question?

Why don’t kids understand that what they say has repercussion.

Kids are cruel and seem to say the one thing that cuts deepest without even a nanosecond of hesitation.  Part of this is something learned over time.  Part of it has to do with the development of the brain and an understand of consequence but most of it has to do with empathy.

                 em·pa·thy
                ˈempəTHē/
                    noun
                          1. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Some people think that everyone learns empathy while growing up and once our brains are completely grown it is cemented.  This leads to vast disparaties in adults from people with over empathetic tendencies who are crippled by the imagined, projected emotions of others and sociopaths who cannot relate to anyone and believe that emotions are just an act.
However, there has been copious amounts of research in empathy training and the only way that has been proven to improve empathy in children and adults alike: reading fiction.
Fiction opens up our imagination to other points of view.  It literally places us in someone else’s shoes and forces us to experience something outside ourselves.
If your kids are struggling with empathy it might be a good time to encourage reading some fiction.  If you find yourself struggling to connect with others it might be time to pick up a new fiction book.
It is important that it is fiction and not nonfiction or other forms of writings as nonfiction is always from the perspective of the other.  It is set in the real world with other people you will always be removed, however fiction requires more suspension of disbelief, it forces the imagination to stretch to allow one to accept the reality presented even if only for a little while.
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I am by no means an expert.  I only recently learned about this but I wanted to pass along the knowledge that reading can do something that literally no other activity out there can.
If this interests you there are plenty of scholarly articles that discuss the studies done on this and the extent to which one can train their empathy I have linked a few of my favorites below:
Books are powerful and they need to be emphasized in kids lives.  Whether you make a commitment to read every day, once a week, or as much as you can it needs to be a part of lives.  It will give your kids the skills they need to navigate the world as adults.
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