Building Empathy in the Classroom

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Empathy: The Art of Listening
We generally want to respond when people speak to us. For example, someone says, “I’m so tired, I couldn’t get any work done.” Some typical responses listed below are often said with the best of intentions, but can unknowingly create distance and disconnection.
We call these empathy blockers.
• One-upping
“I’m so tired myself. I couldn’t get any work done either.”
• Advising / Fixing
“Maybe you should get more sleep.”
“Maybe you should get some vitamins.”
“Maybe you should…”
• Educating
“There’s a good book you should get on sleep and productivity.”
• Analyzing
“You know, this seems to be a pattern of yours.”
• Consoling
“That’s too bad. I’m sure things will go better tomorrow.”
• Discounting
“Okay, but shouldn’t you just be glad you have a job?”
Some things we can say to express empathy
• “I hear you.” Said with sincerity, meets a person’s need to be heard.
• “Tell me more.” Said with sincerity, shows you are really interested.
• “I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just grateful you told me.”
When someone is in a difficult place, this may be all you have to say.
– Empathy is Being Interested Rather Than Being Interesting –

Source

Upset feelings typically are attributed to a need not being met. Here is a handy cheat sheet for Feelings Associated with Met and Unmet Needs.

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Activities and Worksheets

40 Kindness Activities & Empathy Worksheets for Students and Adults

Empathy in Your Classroom TRY THESE ACTIVITIES TO BUILD EMPATHY AND COMMUNITY (High School)

Emotional Intelligence Activities For Teens

A Quick-Guide To Teaching Empathy In The Classroom

A Toolkit for Promoting Empathy in Schools

Articles

Empathy in the Classroom: Why Should I Care?

Principal Connection / Building Empathy in Schools -Thomas R. Hoerr

Building Empathy in Classrooms and Schools

how to build project making caring empathy and strengthen your school community

Books

13 kids books to spark conversations about empathy Via Tinybop

10 Children’s Books That Teach Empathy  Via Self-Sufficient Kids

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How to talk to kids about school violence

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The day after the mass shooting occurred in Florida many kids were talking about the massacre. They were asking a variety of questions like, “Will that happen to us at our school?” or simply “Am I safe at school?”  As educators, parents, and community members we have an obligation to know what to say to our kids. This post will review what the National Association of School Psychologist (NASP) recommends.

Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers

High profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved-ones are at risk. They will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears.

  1. Reassure children that they are safe. Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.
  2. Make time to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient; children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes or yard work. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.
  3. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
    • Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.
    • Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.
  4. Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk.
  5. Observe children’s emotional state. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can also indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
  6. Limit television viewing of these events. Limit television viewing and be aware if the television is on in common areas. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.
  7. Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.

Suggested Points to Emphasize When Talking to Children

    • Schools are safe places. School staff works with parents and public safety providers (local police and fire departments, emergency responders, hospitals, etc.) to keep you safe.

The school building is safe because … (cite specific school procedures).

  • We all play a role in the school safety. Be observant and let an adult know if you see or hear something that makes you feel uncomfortable, nervous or frightened.
  • There is a difference between reporting, tattling or gossiping. You can provide important information that may prevent harm either directly or anonymously by telling a trusted adult what you know or hear.
  • Although there is no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it is important to understand the difference between the possibility of something happening and probability that it will affect you (our school community).
  • Senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand. Doing things that you enjoy, sticking to your normal routine, and being with friends and family help make us feel better and keep us from worrying about the event.
  • Sometimes people do bad things that hurt others. They may be unable to handle their anger, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or suffering from mental illness. Adults (parents, teachers, police officers, doctors, faith leaders) work very hard to get those people help and keep them from hurting others. It is important for all of us to know how to get help if we feel really upset or angry and to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
  • Stay away from guns and other weapons. Tell an adult if you know someone has a gun. Access to guns is one of the leading risk factors for deadly violence.
  • Violence is never a solution to personal problems. Students can be part of the positive solution by participating in anti-violence programs at school, learning conflict mediation skills, and seeking help from an adult if they or a peer is struggling with anger, depression, or other emotions they cannot control.

NASP has additional information for parents and educators on school safety, violence prevention, children’s trauma reactions, and crisis response at www.nasponline.org.

PDF

The handout, Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers is available in the following languages:

Source

Related Readings

Violence Prevention: A Mental Health Issue Tips for Parents and Educators (NASP)

15 Tips for Talking with Children About School Violence (Colorín Colorado)

School Violence Prevention-Brief Facts and Tips (NASP)

Framework for Safe and Successful Schools

PREPaRE Training Curriculum

NASP Resolution on Efforts to Prevent Gun Violence 

Using the lens of the Search Institute’s “40 Developmental Assets” to support student outcomes

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Developmental Assets

Developmental Assets help children grow into caring, engaged, and responsible adults. Developmental Assets include the internal character strengths and commitments young people need as well as the external supports and opportunities they need from their families, schools, organizations, and communities.

Search Institute introduced the framework in 1990 and, since then, has studied developmental assets in more that 5 million youth across North America and around the world. The approach focuses on young people’s strengths and working across the many parts of their lives to support their growth and successful development. Hundreds of schools, coalitions, and other organizations have used the developmental assets as a guiding framework for their youth development efforts. Source

Questions

WHAT IS IT?
Asset Building, Resiliency and Youth Development and are philosophies and strategies for creating youth-centered environments that prioritize the positive development of young people.

WHY USE IT?
Research and practitioner experience has proven that a positive school day and after school environment that intentionally develops youth’s assets and adopts a youth development approach can provide the experiences and skills that youth need to develop into healthy adults.

WHEN TO USE IT?
Utilizing an asset building, resiliency and youth development based approach is effective in planning and facilitating all aspects of school day and after school programs. The approach can be used:
As the foundation of your school’s philosophy to establish emotionally, physically safe and engaging learning environments; As a framework for creating engaging classroom, program structures and activities that offer meaningful participation, build skills and expose youth to new opportunities and resources; As an approach for increasing youth involvement and youth buy in to lesson and activity components; As a professional development component or part of a job orientation for all staff.
HOW IT IS USED:
Below are three philosophies of asset building, resiliency and youth development that are often referred to by school sites, local city agencies and community based organizations.
SFUSD- School Health Programs Department encourages the following Asset Building, Resiliency and Youth Development core principles for working with young people as measured by the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS):

Young people have the capacity to develop and transform as they move toward adulthood.
Young people are genetically intended to develop and are actively seeking to meet their own needs.
All young people need the same types of positive resources:
-Caring, Respectful Relationships
-High, Clear and Fair Expectations
-Meaningful Opportunities to Participate and Contribute
All young people need adults in their lives.

Source

PROCESS

First, the kids take a pretest called the DAP (Link). The school gets the results to help direct efforts to support students at their school based on the needs represented by the child responses. The school chooses activities to carry out throughout the year to intervene with the needs. Finally, a posttest of the DAP is given to measure the growth of the schools’ efforts to address the needs identified in the pretest DAP.

DAP QUICK REFERENCE

Length: 58 questions

Average Completion Rate:10 minutes
(Add at least 10 minutes for general instructions and collection.)

Youth: 4-12 grade; ages 9-18

Minimum youth needed for report: 30

Minimum time between Pre and Post: 3 months

Source

 

Need a Copy of the 40 Developmental Assets?

These documents are provided, compliments of the Search Institute. Click on the links to download PDF copies of 40 Developmental Assets lists for different developmental stages and in different languages.

These pages may be reproduced for educational, noncommercial uses only. Copyright © 1997, 2006 by Search Institute, 615 First Avenue N.E.,Suite 125, Minneapolis, MN 55413; 800-888-7828; search-institute.org. All Rights Reserved.

The following are registered trademarks of Search Institute: Search Institute®, Developmental Assets® and Healthy Communities • Healthy Youth®.

Asset Checklist

Assets for Different Developmental Stages

Assets in Alternate Languages

Please note, these asset lists were compiled by Healthy Communities, Healthy Youth sites across the United States. They represent volunteer efforts. Assets lists in alternate stages for different developmental levels are not available for every language.

Would you like to learn more about the Search Institute and their work with the 40 Developmental Assets? Click here to check out their website!

Stress and the Holidays – How to Support Yourself and Your Kids.

Family reading together on sofa at Christmas time, viewed through window

APA suggests these tips to help parents effectively manage holiday stress

  • Strengthen social connections – We know that strong, supportive relationships help us manage all kinds of challenges. So, we can view the holidays as a time to reconnect with the positive people in our lives. Accepting help and support from those who care about us can help alleviate stress. Also, volunteering at a local charity on our own or with family can be another way to make connections; helping others often makes us feel better, too.
  • Initiate conversations about the season – It can be helpful to have conversations with our kids about the variety of different holiday traditions our families, friends and others may celebrate. Parents can use this time as an opportunity to discuss how some families may not participate in the same holiday traditions as others. Not everyone needs to be the same. It is important to teach open-mindedness about others and their celebrations.
  • Set expectations – It is helpful to set realistic expectations for gifts and holiday activities. Depending on a child’s age, we can use this opportunity to teach kids about the value of money and responsible spending. We need to remember to pare down our own expectations, too. Instead of trying to take on everything, we need to identify the most important holiday tasks and take small concrete steps to accomplish them.
  • Keep things in perspective – On the whole, the holiday season is short. It helps to maintain a broader context and a longer-term perspective. We can ask ourselves, what’s the worst thing that could happen this holiday? Our greatest fears may not happen and, if they do, we can tap our strengths and the help of others to manage them. There will be time after the holiday season to follow up or do more of things we’ve overlooked or did not have the time to do during the holidays.
  • Take care of yourself – It is important that we pay attention to our own needs and feelings during the holiday season. We can find fun, enjoyable and relaxing activities for ourselves and our families. By keeping our minds and bodies healthy, we are primed to deal with stressful situations when they arise. Consider cutting back television viewing for kids and getting the family out together for fresh air and a winter walk. Physical activity can help us feel better and sleep well, while reducing sedentary time and possible exposure to stress-inducing advertisements. Source

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Reading

How to De-Stress Young Children During the Holidays

LESSENING HOLIDAY STRESS FOR LITTLE ONES

THE ABCS OF A MEANINGFUL & STRESS FREE CHRISTMAS WITH YOUNG CHILDREN- Tons of ideas if you need them.

Research on Holiday Stress -APA

Handling Holidays After Divorce

 

Classroom meetings

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Classroom meetings are an effective way to help build classroom community, establish behavioral expectations and norms, as well as explore social issues that need tending to help continue supporting a thriving learning environment.

Class Meeting Guides

CREATING POSITIVE ENVIRONMENTS THROUGH CLASS MEETINGS– Diana Browning Wright

Class Meetings Creating a Safe School Starting in Your Classroom– Ophelia Project

The Classroom Meeting-PowerPoint

Articles

The Power of the Morning Meeting: 5 Steps Toward Changing Your Classroom and School Culture

Promoting Learning by Dr. Marvin Marshall – Classroom Meetings

Class Meetings-Positive Discipline

Practical Activities

Idea Title Grade Description
Weekly Agenda

2-6

An agenda where everyone has a say!
Class Meetings with a Stopwatch

K-6

An easy tip for “keeping things moving” in class meetings.
Speak Up with a Microphone

K-6

A quick idea to encourage only one speaker at a time!
Character Trait Spotlight

K-6

Focusing on positive character traits at class meetings.
“Some Things Are Scary”

2-6

This picture book is an excellent springboard for discussion in a class meeting!
Class Meeting Sign

K-6

An easy sign so that everyone knows when the class meeting is!
A Time to Spotlight Students

K-6

Spotlighting students at class meetings

Source

Visuals to Support Learning

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Relational Aggression 

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Developing friendships and maintaining healthy play is a cornerstone to a child’s education. Within the school is a safe place to practice and try out friendships and try different types of play. It is our job as parents and teachers to take advantage of the opportunities that come with peer conflict to provide the child/ children with an teachable moment. Here are some resources to support that effort.

Relational Aggression

Relational aggression (RA) is a nonphysical form of aggression whereby the perpetrator’s goal is to inflict or threaten damage to relationships, including harm to the target child’s social standing or reputation. This form of aggression may result in long-term psychological harm to victims. Source

RELATIONAL AGGRESSION – Overview

Dealing with Relational Aggression and Children: A Guide for Parents

Research Article It’s mean boys, not mean girls, who rule at school, study shows

Education Article Study: Boys, Not Just ‘Mean Girls,’ Use Relational Aggression

Little Bullies: Relational Aggression on the Playground

Resources From The Ophelia Project

Practical Strategies for Teachers- 5 STEPS for Teachers

Boys

Boys Relational Aggression Curriculum

Girls

Girls Relational Aggression Curriculum

 

Other Resources

bully

Understanding Playful vs. Hurtful Teasing and Bullying Behavior

Books

I Didn’t Know I Was a Bully (Grades K-5) Paperback – 2006

Tease Monster: A Book About Teasing Vs. Bullying (Building Relationships) Paperback –  by Julia Cook

Relational Aggression in Young Adults: Relational Aggression in Peer and Dating Relationships, Gender Difference, Attribution Bias, Emotional Distress Paperback by Violet Lim

The author Trudy Ludwig Bullying books.