Teaching Empathy to Kids Through Empathy Cards

Craig Gastauer

Craig Gastauer is currently Internal Director of Pedagogy at Vista High School in Vista, CA. He is proud to be working with great teachers and students to create a more learner-centered public high school experience.

Emily McDowell launched her empathy card line in May of 2015.

When Emily McDowell was battling Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she endured nine months of intense chemo and radiation treatments. She recalled some friends didn’t really know what to say or do about her condition. Now in remission, McDowell was inspired to create the Empathy Cards.

Children can demonstrate empathy in their own way and this is great activity for them to learn. They can design and create their own personalized cards to give to a family member or a friend who is sick. They can write wonderful lines of plain spoken words that will help the recipients of the cards to feel seen, understood, and loved. Empathy is a very powerful way to communicate.

No well-meaning parent would discourage their child from expressing empathy. It is a skill that children learn by watching us as it takes time and practice to develop.

“The most difficult part of my illness wasn’t losing my hair, or being erroneously called ‘sir’ by Starbucks baristas, or sickness from chemo,” McDowell writes on her website. “It was the loneliness and isolation I felt when many of my close friends and family members disappeared because they didn’t know what to say, or said the absolute wrong thing without realizing it.”


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