Monthly Archives: April 2019

5 tips for raising an empathetic child

– S. Michele Fry

Does your child cry when you cry? Does she want to give a dollar to every homeless man with a cardboard sign? Or do you have the kid who noticed neither the tears nor the homeless person? The first child may have a deep natural capacity for empathy. The second child, not so much. Empathy is at the root of what it means to be human, experts say, and it’s at the core of all good relationships — personal and professional. Some children may naturally have more of it than others. But not to worry, empathy — the ability to understand and share the feelings of another — is something that experts say can be enhanced, learned, and practised.

How do you foster an empathic environment at home? Well, to teach empathy you have to show empathy. A “do as I say, not as I do” style won’t cut it. Your kids are watching you — and they copy you. Try these suggestions to strengthen your child’s empathic muscles and avoid habits that destroy an empathic mindset.

  1. Model caring for others

    Show concern for people outside your circle, as well as your family, friends, and associates. Give the letter carrier a bottle of water on a hot day. Join the street musician in a song you know. Talk to strangers in the grocery store line.

    Don’t judge others. Don’t call people names. Don’t be rude and disrespectful. Don’t sit around talking smack about the neighbours, especially the ones you also hang out and barbecue with.

  2. Model good listening skills

    Here’s how:

    • Actually listen.
    • Let your body language and facial expressions convey that you are listening by nodding and offering plenty of “uh-huhs”.
    • Respond to what people say.

    Don’t formulate your response while someone else is still talking. And don’t interrupt.

  3. Be forgiving

    Remember, forgiveness is not about the other person. It’s about how you act and feel. Let your child see you being the bigger person.

    Don’t hold grudges, seek revenge, be mean or unkind, or give “the silent treatment” to loved ones.

  4. Challenge prejudices and stereotypes

    Encourage your kids to be inclusive, so that means you need to be inclusive, too. What’s your group of friends like? It’s important to let your child talk about race, prejudice, and stereotypes.

    Don’t be afraid to talk to your kid about race, inequality, and discrimination. If you see incidents of prejudices or stereotyping, don’t let them pass without comment.

  5. Help them learn to recognize, express, and manage their feelings

    Your child’s other feelings could be getting in the way of their ability to feel empathy. Help your child learn to identify other people’s feelings when reading books or watching movies or TV shows.

    Don’t shut your child down with phrases like, “Stop. I don’t want to hear it” or “Big girls don’t cry.” Don’t discount or disregard their feelings. Don’t ignore emotions they are having a difficult time expressing or are attempting to suppress.

 

This is an abridged version of the article, you can read the full article here.

Teens have less face time with their friends — and are lonelier than ever…

– Jean Twenge

Ask a teen today how they communicate with her friends, and they’ll probably hold up their smartphone. Not that they actually call their friends; it’s more likely that they text or message them on social media.

Today’s teens — the generation I call “iGen” that’s also called Gen Z — are constantly connected with their friends via digital media, spending as much as nine hours a day on average with screens.

After studying two large, nationally representative surveys, it was found that although the amount of time teens spent with their friends face to face has declined since the 1970s, the drop accelerated after 2010 — just as smartphones use started to grow.

Compared with teenagers in previous decades, iGen teens are less likely to get together with their friends. They’re also less likely to go to parties, go out with friends, date, ride in cars for fun, go to shopping malls, or go to the movies.

It’s not because they are spending more time on homework or extracurricular activities. Today’s homework time is either unchanged or down since the 1990s, and time spent on extracurricular activities is about the same. Yet they’re spending less time with their friends in person — and by large margins.

As previous studies have shown, it was found that those teens who spent more time on social media also spent more time with their friends in person.

So why have in-person social interactions been going down, overall, as digital media use has increased?

It has to do with the group versus the individual.

Imagine a group of friends that don’t use social media. This group regularly gets together, but the more outgoing members are willing to hang out more than others, who might stay home once in a while. Then they all sign up for Instagram. The social teens are still more likely to meet up in person, and they’re also more active on their accounts.

However, the total number of in-person hangs for everyone in the group drops as social media replaces some face-to-face time.

So the decline in face-to-face interaction among teens isn’t just an individual issue; it’s a generational one. Even teens who eschew social media are affected: Who will hang out with them when most of their peers are alone in their bedrooms scrolling through Instagram?

Higher levels of teen loneliness are just the tip of the iceberg. Rates of depression and unhappiness also skyrocketed among teens after 2012, perhaps because spending more time with screens and less time with friends isn’t the best formula for mental health.

Some have argued that teens are simply choosing to communicate with their friends in a different way, so the shift toward electronic communication isn’t concerning.

That argument assumes that electronic communication is just as good for assuaging loneliness and depression as face-to-face interaction. It seems clear that this isn’t the case. There’s something about being around another person — about touch, about eye contact, about laughter — that can’t be replaced by digital communication.

The result is a generation of teens who are lonelier than ever before.