Empathy, why it needs to be taught in Irish schools

Why is it essential for empathy to be taught in Irish schools. For a start, when a baby is born, their mind is a clean slate. What are exposed to decides what's hard coded in to them. This ultimately dictates, what type of an individual the child will eventually become. Bad coding, leads to a bug ridden program, which leads to issues and problems.

So, while still at an impressionable age, every child might benifit from an education regarding positive attributes, to help shape them into the sort of individual can contribute in a positive way to society.

Teaching kindness, empathy, generosity, honesty are all really essential qualities. Right now so many other detrimental qualities, are frequently absorbed through unrestricted online access. If we can ensure a generation of children grow up with positive attributes, then it will benifit them whole and others.

In Denmark, they are currently placing a huge emphasis on cultivating empathy in children. They are trying to address why some disregard the well-being of others. They have realised that having empathy for others is something we learn from our every day social interaction. It's also a quality genuinely necessary for society to thrive.

School subjects such as language or science are indeed important. However, schools in Denmark are now placing enormous emphasis on empathy, as it is an incredibly important skill in life.

There is a belief that an understanding of empathy is far more relevant, than say a mastery of algebra, or a scientific theorem. It is also a longitudinal life skill, one which will be relied upon for a lifetime.

Danish schools introduced mandatory empathy classes in 1993. Children from the the age of 6 to 16 are instructed on how to be kind to others. Known as “Klassens tid”, teachers instruct children on the importance and necessity of empathy.

We know from our own experience, bullying and cyberbullying, are still a very prominent problem for Irish school children. Having met hundreds of children of all ages, there is a very common theme. Digital devices afford an emotional detachment from others.

Hense why a post, comment or any other negative online interaction can be an emotionless experience.
Danish children during their empathy or “Klassens tid”, are asked to share problems, or issues they are going through. Then the entire class pitches in to help find a solution. Kids grow up to become confident, emotionally intelligent adults, who will know not to judge people for their struggles.

Children who have an understanding of this quality, as will as the ability to use it, do eventually become adults. Those adults are believed to very likely pass on those skills, and raise happier kids themselves.

Denmark has consistently been at the top of the UN's World Happiness Report. In the latest report, Denmark stood in second place followed by Finland. Denmark has been at the top in 2012, 2013, and 2016. Perhaps empathy classes have contributed in this aspect.

The Danish Way stated, “Empathy helps build relationships, prevent bullying and succeed at work. It promotes the growth of leaders, entrepreneurs, and managers.
‘Empathic teenagers' tend to be more successful because they are more oriented towards the goals compared to their more narcissistic peers.”

Empathy is possibly best taught taught through interactive teamwork. Classes where those excelling and those lacking, collaborate. This can develop an understanding of positive qualities. While also lifting others up to complete a task, without being drawn in to competition with each other.

When it comes to empathy, being able to improve emotional awareness and empathy requires the ability to be able to articulate experience, thoughts, feelings, and senses. Many children, teens and parents suffer from emotional illiteracy. So there is a huge amount of work required across all ages, from infant to adult to address this.

We have used images of faces during some presentations, as a means to gauge the intensity of emotions, childen experience when exposed to harmful online content. These help children conceptualize their own thoughts, feelings and emotions. They also afford an avenue to explore the same in others.

It takes time to teach both adults and children not to be judgemental, and how to acknowledge and respect others. The earlier this kind of education is afforded, the better the chance of it being both comprehended and adopted by students.

Ultimately, we as parents are the masters of any child's future. The more skills we can afford children, especially when it comes to empathy, the more we will empower, not only our children, but society as a whole.

Children of the Digital Age
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