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Empathy and Inclusion - when can children learn/be taught, and how?

(6 Posts)
Earlybird Fri 29-Aug-08 20:10:36

At what age (generally) can a child grasp the concept of empathy and inclusion, and how can it be taught?

We moved to a new community a year ago. DD (now age 7.5) spent some lonely times and wailed 'no one will play with me' countless times as the 'new girl'.

She had a playdate yesterday at the pool. An acquaintance was there, playing on her own. At one point she approached dd, but dd and her pal were engrossed in their own game and didn't respond. I called dd over and said 'why don't you invite X to join in with your game', and dd refused.

I didn't push it, but certainly thought back to a year ago when it was dd who was excluded. I felt a bit disappointed in dd, and wondered if perhaps it is time for an empathy and inclusion chat.... Would be interested to hear opinions.

quinne Fri 29-Aug-08 20:39:57

I'd agree that you should do it. Some parents seem to think that it is a dog eat dog world when you are grown up so too right if the kids get toughened up now and if your kid is the outcast then that is just the way it is.
In my opinion (and I am defiantly not an expert!). It feels right that parents define some values about how their kids will be taught to treat others and then they gently urge their children towards those goals throughout their childhood.
You can't make them like other children but you can make them understand that its not ok to make someone else feel bad.
Sorry earlybird this is not aimed at you, just a replay of my side of a heated discussion I had with a friend a few months ago.
I really don't like seeing people be victimised and when a whole class doesn't talk to you or play with you because you are the newcomer then it is victimisation.

quinne Fri 29-Aug-08 20:40:29

definitely not defiantly!

Umlellala Fri 29-Aug-08 20:49:22

v interesting. Yes, I think it is very important. Want dd to eventually go to an inclusive state school here in Hackney and learn empathy and social awareness from that (as I did, going to state primary school with strong inclusion policy).

Dd is 2.3 and I think shows good empathy for her age. For this age I think stories are the answer and fostering a positive happy feeling at others' happiness (eg she enjoys sharing - well, mostly wink- because the other child is then happy, she can get pleasure watching them play with the toys. I tell a story she loves based on sharing her ice cream when her friend drops hers... etc). Havent really covered inclusion yet..?

Mainly I think modelling is important. How parents talk and act will be copied. So I hope she will notice that we say hello to lots of different people in the supermarket, and that everybody is offered biscuits when her friends are round etc.

Umlellala Fri 29-Aug-08 20:54:25

PS Earlybird, yes, I think you should chat to dd about feelings of course. Agree it's not about being best friends with everybody, but being civil.

In that particular situation (which I have had as a teacher), perhaps YOU could talk to the new girl and say hello to her, then say to dd 'x has come to join in. what can she do?' so almost not giving her a choice... although I don't have a 7 year old, and would hope she wouldn't be rude.

Earlybird Sat 30-Aug-08 14:11:00

Hmm. Advice here is interesting and thought provoking.

DD met X at ballet class, where X is surrounded by classmates from school, and DD is the 'outsider' as she attends a different school. When X is with her 'posse', she is happy/bouncy/aloof to dd - not inclusive or empathetic toward dd in the slightest. At the pool on her own, X was drifting around at a loose end.

When I questioned dd further about why she didn't include X when prompted by me, she said it was because the two girls were enjoying their own game so much and didn't want X to join in and try to change the game.

It's understandable, I suppose. I don't think dd needs to be a 'pollyanna' character, and feel obliged to reach out so much that she can't have time with/connect with her own pals. But, was fascinated to see that kind-hearted, sensitive dd was unable/unwilling to put herself in X's shoes - especially as dd knows/remembers vividly how it feels to be the one left out. (BTW, X didn't seem miserable as she started playing with her dsis and father)

quinne - sounds as if you have had a difficult situation surrounding being left out. This was not victimisation, just a one-episode disinclination to play with another child.

Umlellala - good tips, and I like the phrasing you suggest. DD was simply excited at having playtime with her pal, and didn't want to 'dilute' it by including an acquaintance (X not known well enough to call her a friend) - and that seems reasonable, which is why I didn't push dd further after my suggestion.

Part of me felt a bit sorry for X, and part of me wondered if it might inadvertently be a valuable lesson for X to know what it feels like to be the one left out - but that is probably too complicated for a 7 year old to grasp.

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