Today was a great day! It was a cupcake day! Not just one cupcake but a two cupcakes day! Today I was offered two cupcakes by two separate individuals/groups. The first cupcake was hand delivered by Mrs. Stone’s class. With great enthusiasm, only possible by ten bubbly three year olds, they shared with me that they made strawberry cupcakes and that they wanted me to have one because Mrs. Stone told them that “sharing was caring”. The second cupcake was hand delivered by an upper school student who had made them and wanted to be sure I had one. “Sharing is caring.” What a great message! More important than the cupcakes (although yummy and yes, I ate both), caring is a key ingredient needed for children to learn empathy.

Last week I shared the “What not to do” in helping our children gain the ability to be empathic. Today, I’ll share the “What to do” to help children learn to be empathic. These tidbits of knowledge come from the latest book I recently finished titled: “UnSelfie Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba, Ed.D.
What to do:

1.  Read to your child and be sure that they are reading. Reading the research shows not only makes children smarter but also kinder – more caring. Reading allows children to learn about other people’s situations and aids in their ability to perspective take. Reading is on the decline so be sure your home values reading. Reading has a long-term impact on a child’s development and success in school and work.

2.  Boost Moral Imagination by asking children “what if” and “how would you feel?” questions. This helps develop perspective taking skills.

3.  Watch Movies that share stories of people overcoming situations that are difficult. This helps build empathy and perspective taking skills. Teach with Movies ( is a great resource as well as Common Sense Media, which aids in determining if movies are age appropriate (

4.  Help Children Learn to Self-Regulate. Children must be able to control their emotions before they can recognize others’ emotions. Children must also learn what emotions are and learn to determine their different feelings.

5.  Being Kind Matters– Cultivate Kindness. Recent research from Harvard determined that although parents stated valuing caring, the messages they give their children communicates something different, and is perceived by children to have less value than say winning. From the research, here’s what several children stated: “Being kind matters but what my parents really want is for me to win, no matter what.” “Mom and Dad tell me that I should be nice but they get more excited when I make the Honor Roll.”

6.  Promote “Us” not “Them”. Use language that promotes similarities between individuals not differences. Stress “Like Me” – “Yes, he speaks a different language, but what worries do you think he has that are the same as yours?”

7.  Build Moral Courage. Use Your “Heart” – Teach children to: Get Help (I’ll get the teacher), Empathize (Think about what it would feel like if it happened to you), Assist (I’ll go get the band-aids), Reassure (It’ll be okay. I’m still your friend) and Tell How You Feel (I’m sorry that happened to you).

8.  Teach Your Children to be Change Makers. Teach growth-mindedness. Emphasize Effort and Process – “You are really making an effort to help others.” Don’t helicopter – rescuing, doing and solving for your child does not teach your children to be independent and does not create change makers. Teach children to cope, make decisions, create, problem solve and learn how to empathize.

9.  Encourage Your Child’s Independence and Voice.  At Clariden we’re big on promoting student voice and this author agrees with the significance of using your voice. Ask children their thoughts and feelings. Talk with them about their ideas. Promote the child’s need for independence.

Remember that “Sharing is Caring!”

Source:   UnSelfie Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All About-Me World by Michele Borba, Ed.D

— Sallie Wells, Head of School