Chaplain’s Chat – Empathy and Kindness

Empathy is another focus from The Resilience Project that builds resilience.  

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Having empathy can motivate us to do something kind for someone else. This causes our brain to release oxytocin which leads to increasing our self-esteem/confidence, energy levels, positivity and overall happiness. 

How does empathy feature in your family? For me, my two girls are 1½ years apart and they can be very competitive. While they get along as besties more often than not they have their fair share of disputes. This is when Empathy can be a saving grace.  

Often, after my 5y/o bursts into tears, my 6y/o realises either she has either gone too far, or otherwise that her sister is feeling fragile, and a switch flicks! Then my 6y/o will be super nice and even lend her favourite toy or give away the last chocolate just to cheer her sister up. (This may or may not be hers.) We are still working on getting that switch to flick more often without the tears trigger.  

Reflecting on where my family is at, has motivated me to take on the following ‘family kindness challenge’ as our next step.  

  • Create a Family Activity 

Set a whole family project for everyone, including parents, to record ONE act of kindness or ONE pleasant activity per day. You might call it your “Happiness Project” or “Happiness Diary.” These activities might include helping with dishes, letting someone else go first, going out of your way for a friend, taking care of an animal, hugging someone to make them feel better, etc. Or they might include visits to places and experiences that make us feel good, like visiting grandparents or the park. 

  • Share on a Weekly Basis 

Each week, take time to share as a family. It’s not important to share everything in one’s diary. What’s important is to share enough so that everyone learns from each other’s acts of kindness and begins to understand the kinds of experiences that bring gratitude to life. Sharing encourages reflection and helps bring meaning to our actions. 

The above excerpt is taken from (Acts of Kindness: Key to Happiness for Children & Teens | Psychology Today Australia) that has more details and reflections around kindness.  

For my family, I hope we can continue through June (the suggested 1 month) and surpass the 21 days recommended to create a new habit.  However, I will definitely give the first week a go, and what better time to start when I have more time at home over this long weekend. 😊  

All the best for nurturing habits of empathy and kindness in your family.