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an empathy dialogue

3 Scenarios of Empathy In Action to Help You Start the Conversation

Real-life stories that make empathy concrete--and make broaching the topic as easy as 1, 2, 3 .

By Ada Calhoun

Ada Calhoun is a freelance journalist living in New York City.  She is the author of Instinctive Parenting: Trusting Ourselves to Raise Good Kids. Ada was the founding editor-in-chief, from 2006-2009, of Babble.com, the online resource center for "a new generation of parents," which earned a Folio Silver Medal and an ASME nomination for best online magazine.

July 10, 2012

Want to talk about empathy with your kids but don't know where to begin?  Empathy can feel abstract--so make it concrete. Use these scenarios of empathy-in-action to turn empathy into stories kids can sink their teeth into.

1) The Concerned Mugging Victim: "You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help."

In 2008, Julio Diaz handed over his wallet to a would-be mugger, then offered him his coat, too. After striking up a conversation, Julio wound up taking the mugger out for a meal and showed by example how rich your life can be when you treat people well. Listen to the NPR story with your children. What do they think about what Julio did?

2) The Generous Bride: “I was heartbroken…And then I found that it became exciting, the idea of doing something bigger.”

Robin Rogers was a college professor whose wedding was called off. Instead of wallowing in her lost love, she decided to do something positive. She changed the reception into a fundraiser for a soup kitchen. Read this news story with your children. What do they think of Robin? Can they think of a situation that they have been unhappy in and been able to turn into something good?

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3) The Protective Big Sister: “My brother will never speak a word to me…but he means more to me than anyone.”

Regan, a teenager, made this video tribute to her brother, who has Down Syndrome and autism. She wants people to think before they use words like “retarded.” She says her brother is an inspiration even though he will never be able to speak. What do your children think of the video?

contributions from Frankie Thomas and Ilya Tsinis