Listen to Learn Empathy
Empathy can be a challenging skill to teach. One great way to infuse discussions about empathy into your daily conversations is through stories that invite children to practice flexing their empathy muscles.
With stories, characters can model empathetic feelings and behavior in a way that is engaging and fun. Stories can be revisited again and again, allowing children to process and understand big ideas. Interactive stories put children at the center of the action, sparking imagination, creativity, play, and empathy.
When the characters in the story express their feelings, practice managing their feelings, behave in kind (or unkind) ways, or demonstrate care for others, YOU have the opportunity to help your child reflect and make connections with his or her own real-life experiences.
Stories are magic!
In addition to books, podcasts are another way for your family to experience new stories.
A Podcast Focused on Empathy
The Emotion Motion Podcast, a narrative podcast by the organization I founded and lead, Move This World, which is a partner in the Big Heart World initiative, follows the adventures of Megan the Mermaid with her friends and family after a shipwreck pollutes their reef and changes their day-to-day lives. Megan the Mermaid and her friends learn how to navigate the social-emotional challenges of learning at home, making new friends, losing loved ones, and other challenges. Interactive episodes prompt families to practice breathing exercises and other mindfulness techniques, as well as social emotional learning strategies to deepen the skills that support wellbeing.
Here are a few episodes that will help you boost your little one’s empathy skills, along with a few questions to get the follow-up conversation started:
Hard Shell, Soft Heart
Season 1, Episode 4: Megan the Mermaid and her underwater ocean friends, including a crab named Joey, learn how to deal with some clownfish who take the clowning too far.
- Have you ever experienced something like what Joey the Crab experienced? What did you do?
- How can you stand up for the people you love?
- Try a Gratitude Circle with your family! What are you grateful for about each person?
Quarantine Under the Sea
Season 1, Episode 7: After a shipwreck affects their reef, months of working and learning from home starts to become challenging. Megan the Mermaid and her family learn a few new fun ways to make the most of their time together.
- Do you want to bring the same ritual of sharing gratitude and highlights from our day to our family? Why or why not?
- What is your favorite part of being home together?
- What do you think can be challenging about being home together?
The Tide is Turning
Season 2, Episode 1: As Megan the Mermaid’s undersea world begins to get back to normal, she heads back to school and gets ready to become a big sister.
- When was the last time you felt so excited or nervous that you couldn’t get to sleep? What did you do?
- What did it feel like when you started at a new school or in a new grade and made new friends? Did you feel excited, nervous, shy, or another emotion?
- How did it feel to Tighten and Release? What did you notice in your body? What did you notice in your mind?
A Wave of Sadness
Season 2, Episode 4: Megan the Mermaid loses someone very close to her and experiences a tidal wave of sadness.
- How did you feel listening to this episode? If your feelings were a color, what colors did you feel when you listened to this episode? How did you feel if your feelings were the weather? Think about what your feelings would sound like if they were a sound. Make that sound together!
- If you could write Megan a letter, what would you say to her?
- If you could draw Megan a picture, what would you draw?