After reading Bob Sornson’s book, Stand in My Shoes: Kids learning about empathy, Sheila Sjolseth wrote about a family activity worth sharing with our readers.

The ability to notice what others feel

Empathy is “the ability to notice what other people feel. Empathy leads to the social skills and personal relationships which make our lives rich…, and it is something we can help our children learn,” says Bob Sornson,

Sheila’s idea

empathy shoes exerciseI’m quoting here from Sheila’s account of what she did to reinforce the book’s theme with her children.  “The book is about a little girl in her quest to learn to think from another’s perspective, recognize need, and see ways to help fill those needs.  In nine different situations where someone needs help, the main character tries to imagine what that person is going through and attempts to help.”

After reading the story and discussion the situations, we decided to try and look at life from the perspective of the members in our family.”

We wanted to answer the questions:

  • What bothers this person?
  • What makes this person happy?

We gathered up our shoes

empathy boy's shoe“We took turns standing in each other’s shoes and tried to imagine what it is like to be the other person in order to answer the questions.

Some of the answers were funny:

“When wearing my shoes, to answer the question “What bothers Mom?”–one boy answered, “smelly toots.”  The other boy said, “when we don’t eat our food.”  And, I realized that he was right!  It bothers me when the boys don’t eat.

The activity just took a few minutes

But we learned that we knew quite a bit about each other.  When we didn’t really know the answer, other members of the family chimed in to help out.  And, it is always silly fun to try and walk around in someone else’s shoes!

My spiritual takeaway

When we practice empathy we bring God’s character to bear in life situations. God understands everything we feel and we in turn extend this understanding to others with whom we share life.

* Find Sheila Sjolseth here.

Tweetable: Keep on trying–teach kids to recognize need and think of ways to meet needs for people close to them at school or home. This simple, quick, imaginative activity might get the point across to some kids in your life. Click to Tweet