Talk About It

Research tells us that kids who engage in meaningful conversations about emotional experiences have higher levels of empathy. Read more...

By Momentous Institute | Jul 17, 2015
Talk About It

Research tells us that kids who engage in meaningful conversations about emotional experiences have higher levels of empathy. Kids whose parents and caregivers ask questions like, “How do you think she felt when that happened?” are helping to increase their child’s empathy.
 
Parents sometime struggle with how to turn regular conversations into meaningful conversations. Knowing this, our education research director, Dr. Karen Thierry, along with our family guidance coordinator, Monica Arellano, shared this research and some strategies with parents at Momentous School. During regular home visits with families in our Pre-K program, Monica shared strategies to help elicit strong parent-child conversation. Here are the strategies she shared:


Here’s a transcript of one of our parents having a conversation with her daughter, a child in our school, about a recent trip to the park. At the park, the child had run into a friend named Mariana.

What stands out about the conversation is that it took effort on the mom’s part to carry it through to completion. It could have easily ended with talking about seeing Mariana at the park, or Mariana being sad because she had to leave the park. Had mom not used some of these strategies, she would have missed the wonderful opportunity to talk with her daughter about how her actions made another person feel.
 
In this short conversation, mom was able to give her daughter practice considering the emotions of others. As parents, we can be quick to punish kids for misbehavior, and as a result, we might miss the opportunity to have a conversation that gives kids practice taking the perspective of others. We know from research that this is a primary way that children develop empathy.
 
Give it a shot! In the car on the way home, at morning circle in your classroom, or any time you have a few minutes with a child… Go beyond, “What did you do today?” and see if you can take the conversation a little deeper. You’ll be helping a child with all kinds of skills – narrative understanding, vocabulary, conversation skills, and most importantly, empathy.


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