Workshop 3- Linda VanVoorst from Justice Kids
“Helping kids move beyond learning to doing”
What is empathy and how do you develop this virtue in children?
– The what, when and how of Justice and Empathy development.
Knowing how to explain justice to kids we can raise a generation that recognizes injustice, is mission minded, and can bring about change.
1. Define justice and injustice in a way that kids can understand.
– Justice is what should be
– Justice is a concern and genuine respect for people.
– To act justly, you have to pursue making the not good, good.
– Kid-friendly definition: Living justly is looking for the “wrongs” in the world and trying to make them “right.”
2. How to do justice
Don’t do wrong, care for the poor, hate evil, be filled with compassion for others, don’t steal, care for people, help foreigners, care for animals, don’t lie, the Golden rule, tell the truth, help widows, defend truth, love what is good, be honest, help others, forgive others, don’t hold grudges, help orphans, don’t entertain evil ideas, share your food and drink, do what is right, etc.
All these activities of justice can be summed up in four commands (Zechariah 7): Show mercy to others (be kind to others, even when they don’t deserve it),show compassion to one another (be concerned about others), do not oppress others (make life good for others), and do not plot evil against each other (don’t harm others).
VBS Curriculum through Justice Kids available.
Teach your child: Justice matters to God so it should matter to us.
6 possible reactions to injustice
– Sympathetic distress and sadness: when interacting with injustice, your child would feel sad and want to withdraw.
– Empathetic anger: When interacting the child would feel like fighting.
– Empathetic feeling of injustice: when interacting the child would feel thankful it did not happen to him, but would be emotionally and physically affected as if it did happen to him.
– Guilt over inaction: the child would feel uncomfortable and not know how to act and would feel extremely guilty.
– Blaming the victim: the child would feel frustrated at the victim for being in the situation in the first place.
– Action with the afflicted: Your child would feel the urge to join the victim and aide in helping her in her distress.
Teach your child: we must act on behalf of the afflicted. The trick to doing this well is to teach a child to be empathetic.
What is empathy?- Feeling with another
Head knowledge, emotional insight, compassionate action.
The call to action is what separates empathy and sympathy.
Teach kids to ask: What are you thinking? What are you feeling? How can I help?
Four stages of empathy development in children
Stage 1: 2-3 years old…the child connects another’s discomfort as it were their own…the way you show empathy to a toddler is more important than anything you say. Practical things you can do are teach them how to pray and model the traits you want to see.
Stage 2: 4-5 years old…they understand it is not their distress, but wants to help like they would want to be helped. Do not mandate a reaction. Instead talk the child through the situation and help him/her arrive at the correct reaction by his own doing. Talk about the situations to ask how they and others are feeling.
Stage 3: 6-9 years old…the child can reason, “You are not me, how might you want me to respond?” Entertain hypothetical problems. Work on problem solving and critical thinking.
Stage 4: 10-14 years old…A realization of other’s feelings and understanding that the problems are beyond them, but willing to respond. Give kids experiences and opportunity to reflect on how their actions affect themselves and others.
Help teens to have the opportunity to reflect on their actions and attitudes towards others. This has to be a conversation. Get teens to volunteer with non-profits. Raise money for charities. Go on a faction and on it do a service project. Give your kids practice with serving others. Weave empathy development into everything you do.
A child learns the most when it is modeled by their families by getting comfortable with emotions. Verbally process your love, concern, happiness, and sorrow for others with your children. Name emotions because culture and Hollywood give bad definitions to emotions and feelings such as love. Define values that are important to your family such as forgiveness, compassion, helping others, and not harming others. Pray. Ask God to help your kids love God and love what matters to him.
Three things must come together: How are kids learning? How are parents teaching? How is the church supporting? The goal is to balance and leverage all three of these for the best health, growth and maturation of the kid. It is like a three legged stool.
Justice matters to God. The injustices that anger God are sins that should not be tolerated by us or taught to our children as being acceptable.
Justice matters to God. Justice should matter to us.
I really enjoyed this workshop because of its simplicity, but also development of engaging children with justice in ways that are practical.