In schools, we teach children to read, but if we don’t teach them to relate to others, they will be lost in life—lost in their relationships, they will not have success in their jobs, and we will not have peace in the world. – Mary Gordon.
This statement hit home as it describes my life so well.
I’m fairly intelligent and have a relatively easy time learning new things that require mental skills, but have not done as well with relationships in my life. Once I discovered personal growth, I understood that this is OK and part of my path. I also know that life is much easier if one has learned about and received love, empathy and good emotional skills.
This is becoming common knowledge due to books like Emotional Intelligence. More schools, teachers, leaders and parents are becoming aware of the tremendous power of emotions to affect our life. They mustn’t be ignored.
Gratefully, I’ve had friends who were good models of loving and accepting behavior.
In fact, I believe one of the best gifts that we can give another is the gift of pure presence and acceptance. Too often we listen with an ear for fixing, changing or debating. What a beautiful gift to be simply heard and accepted. This could be called the healing power of empathy. Understanding another without the need to change them.
Although we can heal, learn and develop emotional skills at any time, it has been shown in research that our emotional set point is locked in at an early age due to genetics and environment. It takes hard work to overcome an emotional deficit from childhood. I can attest to that truth that early deficits often lead to problems in later life and pass to the next generation.
I applaud Mary Gordon and her renowned program called Roots of Empathy. She has pioneered a creative program that teaches children emotional skills by bringing babies and parents into classrooms. There are numerous visits over the school year with feedback from trained Roots of Empathy teachers to help the children understand their feelings, bond, develop confidence, and learn about relationships. They learn empathy by seeing and understanding the feelings of the parents and children who visit their classrooms. They gain an experiential understanding of emotional skills.
The program has demonstrated significant gains in students social and emotional skills, even years after participating in the program. The children show more prosocial behavior, kindness, empathy as well as a decline in aggressive, bullying and negative behavior. Additional studies at the University of Washington are underway to track their brain development, behavior and skills over longer periods of time.
Thankfully the Roots of Empathy program is spreading beyond Canada to Germany, UK, Ireland, New Zealand and finally the US. The Clinton Foundation has recognized Roots of Empathy as one of the best empirical based programs to help increase social skills and decrease aggressive behavior in children.
The beauty of the program to me is the compounding effect with these children, their friends, families and future families. This is how we break the cycles of neglect and abuse that tend to repeat generation after generation.