How can we raise children with generous and compassionate genes? We must nurture the ability to care about others starting in the early years. We want lessons about doing good for others and charity to be more than a one-time occurrence so that the spirit of giving and sharing becomes a way of life for our children. Parents are children’s first teachers and can make the most meaningful impression, so modeling empathetic behavior is one of the best ways parents can teach their children this skill.
The word “philanthropy” is derived from the ancient Greek phrase “philanthropia”, meaning “to love people.” Embedded in this word is the concept of empathy, a critical emotional, motivational and cognitive skill. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of someone else and understand what they are feeling and experiencing. In the early years children are ego-centric and are thinking mostly of themselves and their immediate needs. The development of empathy is an important and critical developmental process for young children, and one that can benefit them not only in childhood but well into adult life.
Empathetic adults may have greater success personally and professionally because they have a better ability to understand others, like customers or co-workers. They tend to have higher levels of overall happiness, and more satisfying relationships because they have more tolerance and acceptance of others.
The simplest ways of helping children develop a sense of empathy is by reading books together as a family. Children will learn to associate feelings and actions with their favorite characters and stories. They can explore what caused the character to act or feel as they did and understand the consequences of their actions. Make connections to the story and discuss a time they may have had those feelings. When children learn to understand their own feelings first they can then learn to understand the feelings of others. Talking to children about the “why” of how others are feeling will help build their emotional language.
This month at The Learning Experience we are embarking on our first Virtual Philanthropic Adventure, Bubbles’ Road to Wishes. As we embark on this journey, our little learners are getting hands-on experience and learning to become philanthropists as they explore what it means to be a Sponsor. Our children will learn that a sponsor is a person who supports another person or cause – either with caring enthusiasm or by means of donations. Bubbles’ Road to Wishes is an initiative where The Learning Experience comes together across the nation to raise money for Make-A-Wish® to help grant the wishes of children with critical illnesses. Every dollar raised equals one mile on Bubbles’ Road to Wishes, the further he goes the more wishes we grant! Join us as we come together to make a difference in the life of a child. To learn more, go to www.tleroadtowishes.com.