February Family Focus: Compassion and Empathy

As you might remember, my husband and I decided to focus family conversations, meetings, read alouds, and more on 12 character traits in 2020, one for each month.

As a way to connect my Children’s Lit Love work to our family’s goals, I’m publishing booklists at the beginning of each month, centered around the character trait theme for that month. Most of my posts throughout that month, then, will be specific book recommendations, conversations we’re having, or activities that we’re doing around that specific trait. You can see my February booklist of 50+ books to foster compassion and empathy here.

Our family focus traits of the month for February are compassion and empathy. This means that last Friday night, we had an official “wrap-up” of our formal growth mindset conversations and work (though, of course, we will continue this throughout the year… Like we did just this morning, listening to the Big Life Kids podcast on the way to school!). After chatting about progress towards our learning goals for 2020 and the victories and obstacles we felt as we changed our self-talk last month, we officially launched into compassion and empathy month! Read on to see what this looked like in our house.

As we did in January, we started the conversation with a family read aloud (of course!). I am a firm believer in the power of literature to give children opportunities to both better understand the world around them, as well as to practice being the best version of themselves for this world. Though I have pulled aside a HUGE stack of stories with characters who ACT with intentional compassion and empathy, I selected one of the more didactical books to start the conversation, to help us build a working definition of those terms.

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For this kick-off, I chose to read You, Me and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders, illustrated by Sofia Cardoso. This book, featuring a diverse cast of characters, is narrated by a main character, Quinn, who could be a boy or a girl, making this book more relatable to all children). Quinn walks us through a journey of building an understanding that one thing we all have in common, no matter how different we may seem, is that we all have feelings, and we likely experience similar feelings in similar situations. Story aside, this book was made to read as a family or small group in school for discussion. Sanders intersperses some discussion questions throughout the story, making natural pauses for parents or teachers to engage children to think deeply about their own lives, feelings, and understanding of kindness.

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From there, we began our work on our compassion and empathy anchor chart. Over the course of the month, we’ll work together to further our understanding of what compassion and empathy are, as well as what having these traits feels like, sounds like, and looks like. Our journey on this chart has just begun, so check back in over the course of the month to see the changes we make!

I’m still working on brainstorming some more family meeting conversations and activities to help us build our compassion and empathy, and I’m sure you’ve all got great ideas! Please comment below to share with everyone.

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