I don’t know about you, but once I realized that being a parent meant it was my job to raise the next generation of good-hearted, kind, empathetic people, I got kind of terrified.
Now, I know that my husband and I are good people, and that we basically have what it takes to get the job done. But we are not perfect. And let’s be honest: Kids are kids, and it is natural for them to lash out sometimes. Plus, it’s not always easy for parents to react with the utmost grace — or patience — either. How can we be sure we are doing a decent enough job?
And newsflash, this world is a scary place. Not everyone out there is oozing kindness (understatement of the year, I know). Just releasing your kid out into the world of school is a risk you are taking. How are you to be sure that your kid won’t be bullied, for example, or won’t give in to peer pressure and become a bully themselves?
The good news is that it probably doesn’t take that much effort to raise decent humans. Just being aware that you want to do so is half the battle. Plus, there are a ton of awesome resources out there to help us get the job done.
We recently fell in love with a publishing company called Educate2Empower Publishing. This mom-and-pop publishing company’s main goal is to produce books, posters, and other educational materials to help parents and kids be good citizens, and protect each other against cruelty, bullying, and even sexual predators and other abuse. (We were totally enamored of their “Body Safety Rules” poster. Check it out here.)
And now Educate2Empower has published a great little book called You, Me, and Empathy, which is a fantastic resource to teach your children and yourself about what it means to be a kind, compassionate, tolerant, respectful person. The book even has some strategies for dealing with bullies.
The book, published this year, was written by Jayneen Sanders and contains beautiful illustrations by Sofia Cardoso. The main character is a sweet little person named Quinn (the child’s gender is unspecified in the book), who is faced with various situations in which they must learn to become more empathetic and tolerant of others around them (including a parent, a sibling, a stranger at the park, and a boy at school).
Quinn even encounters a bully who plays unfairly and pushes the other children. Quinn soon learns that the bully had been bullied himself, and Quinn helps him to see that his rage stems from his own insecurity. Yes, I know that bullying situations don’t always end this peacefully, but I think the point here is that learning why someone is the way they are is one of the first steps in healing, for all involved.
One of the great things about the book is that it is racially diverse, an expected and welcome part of today’s society. For example, there is a young girl in a hijab in the book, and the way it’s not mentioned at all in the book as a “thing” is awesome.
The overall message of the book is that the way to teach empathy to your kids is to help them realize that anyone who appears as an “other” is usually more like you than you might realize. The book looks for touchstones — points of similarities — between ourselves and those around us as a way to show that we are all connected and can use those shared points of connection to become more empathetic to the struggles of others and more tolerant of their differences.
The book’s author describes the message of the book to Scary Mommy as this: “Empathy is a learned trait, and as a teacher and a mother, I am concerned that children are becoming less engaged with the people around them and more engaged with the technology that is so easily accessible. Teaching children to see the world from another person’s point of view is crucial to a kind, compassionate, and empathetic society, and therefore, I believe teaching empathy from an early age is critical.”
Right on, huh? To make the book even more user-friendly, each section has a set of questions to ask your kids for further engagement. And there is a long list of discussion questions and activity ideas for parents at the end.
I adored this book and found it a useful springboard for talking about some really important feelings and ideas with my kids — things that I sometimes I have no idea how to approach. You can purchase the book directly from the company or get it from Amazon.
Happy reading! And cheers to all of you out there raising the next generation of amazing, compassionate, forward-thinking kids.