There was a documentary we sat down to watch with the 10 and 12 year old last week about a football team from America in the 60′s. It was the story of Ole Miss, the Mississippi University where riots ensued after JFK overruled the University Chancellor to allow James Meredith entry into the University as the first African American. The hate and discrimination was perplexing to say the least to our 2 boys. “Are they seriously protesting because he is black? It’s just skin colour?” We then proceeded to elaborate on the civil rights movement and the origins of the racism. What pleased me most I guess was the absolute disbelief that our kids showed. It is just not part of their world that people are discriminated against for skin colour or ethnicity. I know this is not necessarily the case for all kids but in this instance , we have certainly come a long way. They showed genuine empathy for Meredith and for all the African American children that were denied basic human rights. “But aren’t they exactly the same as the other kids?”.
I started thinking about this empathy that my kids felt and wondered how much it extends to other areas of life and discrimination. Empathy is such an important asset, particularly when dealing with bullies both online and in the real world. We know how important the bystander is in helping to curb bullying, and we know the bystander can only be effective if they have an ability to feel empathy.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is more than sympathy or feeling sorry for someone. Empathy is the ability to really put yourself in someone else’ shoes. It is taking on another’s perspective with the self awareness to distinguish ones own feelings from the feelings of others. Empathic behaviour means being aware of the environment and circumstance of others in order to regulate ones own emotional response. [Read more...]