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New Kids Songs Teaching Empathy

Introducing three empathy songs written and performed by Theresa Tan!

By Theresa Tan

Theresa Tan is a teacher and musician developing Empathy Heroes, a Youtube channel dedicated to teaching empathy to children through songs. She discovered her passion for working with young children as a kindergarten teacher with Teach For America and as a behavior therapist working with autistic children. In addition, she is a cellist in an Americana band and has previously studied classical cello and piano. She has a master's degree in elementary education from Arizona State University and a bachelor's degree in psychology from Cornell University.

August 20, 2013

My two passions, education and music, collided when I decided to write kids songs to help teach empathy. Although I had never written songs before, I was inspired by Start Empathy's mission. What better way to teach young children than through song? In addition to being naturally engaging, studies indicate that the act of playing music may also boost kids' empathyThat means boosting kids' empathy is as easy as signing them up for lessons through Takelessons.

As I set out to write the empathy songs, I drew heavily from my experience as a kindergarten teacher and cellist. I designated an emotional literacy learning objective to each song. Then I translated the objectives into kid-friendly lyrics. (The rhyming dictionary definitely came in handy during in this process.) Meanwhile, I brainstormed and tested out melodies with the words. My time spent improvising in an Americana band, playing in orchestras, and simply listening to other kids songs helped immensely. After several editing rounds, I came out with three initial songs.

The first song, "Empathy Hero," is about encouraging kids to become empathy heroes by using empathy to help their friends and family. It also defines empathy in kid-friendly terms and gives steps that kids can take to empathize with other people.

The second song, "Making Friends with Empathy," emphasizes how empathy benefits both those who empathize and those who receive empathy. 

The third song, "More than Autism," grew from my experience as a behavior therapist working with children with Autism. My goal for this song was to help people look past the label and understand children with autism better.

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I hope that teachers and parents can incorporate these songs into lessons to help cultivate empathy in their children in a fun way. Ultimately, I want kids to develop, appreciate, and seek out empathy for themselves and for those around them.