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21st Century Skills Summer Camp: Teaching Children Empathy

21st century skills summer camp: teaching children empathy

As a summer camp that teaches children 21st century skills, a key outcome that we try to impart on our campers is the importance of empathy. Valuing and understanding the perspectives of others is a necessary trait for being an effective leader, for adapting to the changes life will bring, and for being a quality participant in any collaboration.

Recently, Scott read an interesting article in the NYTimes titled “Teaching Children Empathy”, which outlines a series of helpful suggestions for raising an emphathetic child. Here’s what he wrote in his Facebook posting about it: 

This fascinating article describes research done by Harvard’s “Making Caring Common Project” about raising ethical and caring children. Interestingly, it distinguishes between the capacity to take someone else’s perspective and true empathy: “In order to be truly empathetic, children need to learn more than simple perspective-taking; they need to know how to value, respect and understand another person’s views, even when they don’t agree with them. ” It also shares five suggestions for developing empathy in children, all of which we practice within our Camp communities and are foundational to our work with children. Through the Camp experience, we try to help children develop the skills and competencies they will need to succeed, to make the world a better place, and to live fulfilling lives. Becoming an empathetic human being is integral to each of those goals.

As both parents and Camp directors we are curious what other parents make of this 5-point list.

1. Empathize with your child and model how to feel compassion for others.

2. Make caring for others a priority and set high ethical expectations.

3. Provide opportunities for children to practice.

4. Expand your child’s circle of concern.

5. Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively.

Do you strive to raise an empathetic child? Are you struggling to teach this in your household? Do you recognize this as a vital trait your child will need to succeed in their 21st century? Have you come up with any of these suggestions on your own? We’d love to know your thoughts.


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