empathy

An Attitude of Gratitude

Having “an attitude of gratitude” is a theme in the Girls on the Run curriculum. I have the wonderful opportunity to serve on the Board of the local Girls on the Run chapter. There are many themes throughout the Girls on the Run curriculum that I think can be applied to adults, children, and teens but certainly an attitude of gratitude is one of them.

A few years ago, I began a Gratitude Jar that I made myself using some ribbon, a mason jar, and cut-up pieces of card stock. Each day I wrote down one thing I was grateful for. One of the best aspects of this practice is seeing the jar filled with many things; some of them were repeated but after 6 months I opened the jar and went through everything I felt grateful for. Some of the tiny cards brought up memories that I had forgotten- a sunny day in February. I encourage you to try it out as a family; your children can even help in decorating the jar. It can become a bedtime ritual or a dinner conversation.

One of the many things that I’m grateful for is my work with children and adolescents. I’m grateful for the families who seek out my help and expertise and I’m grateful for the children and adolescents who trust me and open up to me. My work as a counselor is truly rewarding and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with so many families over the years and in the future too.

Let us express gratitude to each other in whatever way feels most authentic.

Written by Kathleen Goodman

Written by Kathleen Goodman

Empathy vs. Sympathy

Social-Emotional Learning or SEL is the new buzz word in K-12 schools right now. It used to be 21st Century Skills but now it's SEL and I'm all for it. I've developed from scratch a SEL curriculum for a previous school to use and I consult with schools locally and nationally about this topic. People often ask me what is the most important skill students should learn from a SEL curriculum? Wow- just one, that's a tough question to answer but if I can only choose just one then I'd have to say understanding what empathy truly means and knowing the power of perspective taking.

Brene Brown wonderfully describes the distinction between empathy and sympathy in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=1Evwgu369Jw  For me, the most powerful piece of this video is when she says, "in order to connect with you I have to make the vulnerable choice to connect with that feeling deep inside myself." So how can we teach that skill to children?

First of all, let's be honest that many adults are still learning the distinction between empathy and sympathy so for children, at the heart of empathy is perspective taking. Here's an example: Your son comes home and says, "This kid in my class eats lunch by himself every day. I feel so sorry for him." A sympathetic response from you might sound like "Oh, that's so sad. I'm glad you have friends to eat with." In order to help children learn perspective taking, they first have to identify what feeling that other person might be experiencing. Let's try a more empathetic approach. "How would you feel if you had no one to eat lunch with?" Your son replies, "I'd feel embarrassed and lonely." You respond using the same feeling words he identified and reflect, "You'd feel embarrassed and lonely. Has there ever been a time when you felt that way?" It's possible that your son might say no, but I bet instead he might say something like, "Yeah the first night of overnight camp I felt that way." This exchange is an example of perspective taking by encouraging your child to a) name a feeling that the image he described elicits, b) think of a situation when he has felt the same feeling, and maybe even c) brainstorm a strategy that shows an empathetic response to his classmate. 

Written by Kathleen Goodman

Written by Kathleen Goodman