How to Raise Empathetic Kids: Making the World a Kinder Place

Available for Interviews:  Dr. Colleen Cira

Dr. Colleen Cira, Psy.D., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who specializes in Women and Trauma, and has worked with hundreds of people struggling with mental health issues.


Talking Points on What Dr. Cira Can Say in an Interview
About Explaining Protests to kids:

There are several ways that you can increase your child’s emotional intelligence and empathy.

    1. You must have empathy yourself.  The most effective way that kids learn is by watching the way their parents behave.  If YOU, the parent, have and demonstrate empathy, your children will grow up to be empathic.  Give money to homeless folks, check in on friends, family and neighbors who are ill and/or struggling, take your child to a peaceful, family friendly protest, volunteer at a food bank together.  SHOW UP the way you’d like your child to show up someday.

    1. You must accept your child’s emotions.  This sounds easy, but is not.  It’s hard to see our children hurting—we’re actually biologically programmed to struggle to tolerate it.  We want to make it better for them if they are sad.  We want to make it go away if they are angry.  But in order for our kids to learn how to accept other people’s feelings as they are, we have to teach them how to accept THEIR OWN feelings and the only way to do that is when WE accept their feelings.  Let your kids experience big feelings without fixing or punishing.
    2. When your kid has an absolute meltdown about something, once they’re calm, talk it through with them.  When your child is freaking out about something big or small, that is NOT the time to try to reason with them.  Validate their feelings in the moment (that does NOT mean give them whatever they want), help and/or let them calm down and then ask them to talk through everything that happened, just like they’re telling a story.  Have them tell you the beginning, middle, and end—and what they learned from it.  Our children’s brains are not fully developed and won’t be for a long time (think mid-20’s—GASP!) which includes the connectivity between the two hemispheres.  When you help tie a child’s emotional response to a rational (and verbal) response, you help them develop their brain in a way that honors their emotions, but also increases their rationality.
    3. Talk about feelings.  Your kid doesn’t show up in the world knowing when they are sad, scared, angry or worried.  YOU have to teach them that.  The only way to have empathy—an understanding and acceptance of another’s feeling—is by having an understanding and acceptance of your own feelings.  Which means you need to know what the heck you’re feeling!  There are subtle differences between sadness and grief., anger and frustration, anxiety and fear.  Help your child start to learn those things and take them apart by labeling and talking about feelings.  Share your own feelings.  Take a guess at what they’re feeling and believe them when they say it’s not that.  When you read books or watch movies together, encourage them to speculate on how the characters are feeling or what they are thinking.  All of these things encourage 1) feeling identification and 2) perspective taking both of which are required for empathy.


Available for Interviews: Dr. Colleen Cira

Dr. Colleen Cira, Psy.D., received both her Masters and Doctorate from The Illinois School of Professional Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the State of Illinois.  She’s the Founder and Executive Director of Cira Center for Behavioral Health, PC, a boutique group practice specializing in Women and Trauma with locations in Chicago and Oak Park.

She was named one of the “Top 100 Women in Chicago Making a Difference” by Today’s Chicago Woman.  Dr. Cira is a trauma and anxiety expert, clinical supervisor, writer, speaker, consultant, activist, wife, and Mommy to two little ones.

Jo Allison
Managing Editor
Director of Public Relations
Success In Media, Inc.

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