Hudson Valley Parent

HVP December 2016

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Page 24 of 43 n Hudson Valley Parent 25 By MJ HANLEY GOFF W hen can children start to show that they care for others? Behavior analyst and mental health counselor Stacey Trapani-Bar- ber of West Camp hints that it may begin earlier than we think. "Newborns cry when they hear other babies crying in the nursery. Toddlers make a sad face when they see another child hurt and tearful. Preschoolers are typically able to identify and label the emotions of others," she says. "Empathy is some- thing that continually develops and strengthens throughout the lifespan." The lessons don't end there, though as she says it needs to be reinforced as children enter adoles- cence. Step by step In order to impart a skill of any kind, Trapani-Barber says knowing what you're teaching is necessary. "It's important to understand exactly what it is you want to teach and define it," she says. "Empathy is an understanding of how another person feels." The next step is to help the child understand their own feelings. "When your child is crying, you seek to understand the source of the problem" Trapani-Barber says. "Are they hungry, tired, hurt or in need of a diaper change? When you think you have it figured it out, you label it for them 'You are hungry,' followed by meeting that need by delivery of food." Eventually through these pairings, children learn to The empathy connection: Helping kids learn to care (Continued on Page 26)

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