From the Scholastic Bookshelf: How to Talk to Kids About Empathy

Help your child build successful relationships by showing them the world through someone else’s eyes.

Nov 30, 2022



From the Scholastic Bookshelf: How to Talk to Kids About Empathy

Nov 30, 2022

“Empathy” is a big word for a deep feeling. Imagining what another person is going through takes effort and practice. Stopping to put themselves in someone else’s shoes is a big request, but it’s an essential first step in kids understanding others, helping them in times of need, and creating lasting connections.

Teaching your child what empathy is, and how to be empathetic, is crucial as they develop their earliest interpersonal relationships in school and beyond. As your child befriends peers dealing with situations different from their own, you have the opportunity as a parent to help your child carefully consider their reactions  to others’ challenges.

For its 100th anniversary, Scholastic spoke with experts to identify a set of tips, articles, and books that make starting a conversation with your child about empathy easier. These resources are part of a broader initiative, called the Scholastic Bookshelf, created for Instagram to raise awareness around contemporary issues affecting children today.

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For children in kindergarten or beginning elementary school:

If you’ve ever said to your child, “Imagine how that person feels,” or asked, “What do you think that feels like?”, then you’ve touched on the topic of empathy. These comments draw your child away from thinking about themselves and challenge them to insert themselves into a different world and consider a different point of view.

Often, this results in your child being more intentional about choosing kindness.

In The Caring Me I Want to Be! by Mary DiPalermo, we meet a child who spends her days committing acts of kindness. In fact, her entire mission appears to be elevating others, so they might be their best selves. 

In reading this book, your child will learn that’s a huge part of having empathy for someone else: showing that you recognize their challenges and reminding them they have your support.

For children in or approaching middle school:

Meet Chelsea!”, an article for older readers in Scholastic Choices, documents 24 hours in the life of Chelsea Bailey, a teenager with Down syndrome. As readers follow Chelsea through her school day, from gluten-free meals to chorus rehearsal and swim practice with the school team, they meet a student just like themselves, with a few differences. However, those differences don’t define her. 

Chelsea’s story  is an important reminder that who people are, and who they want to be, is much richer and complex than how they might appear at first glance. 

Understanding empathy also means being able to identify when you’ve messed up — even unintentionally — and hurt someone’s feelings. “Am I the Jerk?” is a clever article in Scholastic Choices that examines different scenarios where one friend has offended another. Examples include “ghosting” someone instead of telling the truth and telling someone a truth they may not wish to hear. 

Relationship experts weigh in on who’s at fault for their actions and what they can do to mend the situation. It’s a fun piece with a hint of ethics education that may enlighten your older reader to the ripple effect of their decisions.

Be sure to visit the Scholastic Bookshelf for more resources on empathy and other must-discuss topics like kindness and respect.

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Character and Values