Empathy and Kids
Do you talk to your kids about empathy? How do you tackle such abstract concepts so they really understand? Empathy is an important skill for kids to learn throughout their childhood as they interact with all sorts of different people. The ability to mentally put themselves in someone else’s shoes can help kids understand their own emotions, and treat others with compassion.
I’m thrilled to be joining 4 amazing bloggers in exploring empathy. Each of us has approached the subject in different ways, but all hands-on. It’s just like tackling an art assignment, because everyone interprets and executes the assignment differently!
To see the other posts check out the links at the bottom of my article.
Empathy and Art
I was a little nervous at first to contribute, because I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull off an art project for kids that delves into empathy. I immediately thought up all these cool writing ideas, but something visual? I was stumped. My projects don’t usually explore emotional and social ideas, but I was determined to add something, because sometimes artists make their artwork precisely to communicate about emotional and social issues.
Here’s what we did. Instead of making something to try to convey the idea of empathy, I showed Fen a bunch of self portraits by famous artists and we talked about what the artists may have been feeling, or what emotions the artist may have been trying to convey through the artwork.
We looked at brushstrokes, color, texture, lines, expression, etc. and tried to pinpoint how the artwork made us feel, which gave us clues as to how the artist had been feeling. Boom. Empathy.
Just out of curiosity, I also showed almost-4-year-old Beckett the paintings separately, and asked him what he thought the people were feeling, so he wasn’t influenced by Fen’s answers.
Van Gogh • image source
Fen: worried; sad.
Me: What do you think about the colors and brushstrokes?
Fen: sad- blue is a sad color instead of vibrant, bright colors.
Me: What about the swirls?
Fen: Maybe he is confused.
Picasso • image source
Fen: Normal; happy; kinda smiling. His eyebrows are sort of smiling.
Me: What about the colors?
Fen: They’re plain – grey, black, and white, but they don’t look sad.
Frida Kahlo • image source
Me: Does she look like she’s having a good day or a bad day?
Fen: A bad day, she’s really serious.
Me: What do you think about the clock, the plane and the curtains?
Fen: The curtains are really heavy; she just looks so serious.
Kathe Kallowitz • image source
Fen: Really sad. Like she’s just lost something or someone.
Me: How would you act around her?
Fen: I’d say, “What’s wrong?” Or comfort her.
Chuck Close • image source
Beckett: Happy. It’s funny.
Fen: Mad and serious. He’s angry, but the shapes are kinda fun.
Chagall • image source
Fen: Happy – the expression on his face looks excited. Like he’s thinking about Christmastime, because that looks like a Christmas tree.
Serebryakova • image source
Fen: Happy; enjoying brushing her hair.
Me: Why do you think she’d paint herself happily brushing her hair?
Fen: Because it’s morning; she’s starting a whole new day.
My intention with this exercise was to have Fen look closely and try to pick up on small, subtle clues about the subject. In real life, this would be another person or people, but you still need to be able to hone your sensitivity and observational skills, and since many artists are trying to express feelings through their artwork, I thought this would be a superb starting point.
Have a look at the previous 3 posts on empathy and make sure you check out tomorrow’s post, too. Focusing on empathy and kids has been such an incredible eye-opener for me- it’s made me realize how vital it is to talk about this with your kids.
Day 1 “10+ Ways To Use Emotion Cards To Help Your Child Develop Empathy” at Moments A Day
Day 2 “Toilet Roll Empathy Dolls With Free Printable” at The Craft Train
Day 3 “Foster Empathy In Your Kids Through Service” at Pennies of Time
Day 4 “Exploring Empathy Through Art” here!