If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it about a million times: theory is necessary, but then application – application – application!
Sarah, a member of our staff, lived in Canada, where she was given a brochure soon after her daughter’s birth. The brochure talked about a volunteer program, using caregivers and infants, that helped school children learn about brain development and empathy.
This same program came up for discussion a few weeks ago as we were researching applications for trauma treatment and techniques for building stress resilience.
This volunteer program, called Roots of Empathy, was started by Mary Gordon in Toronto, Canada, in 1996.
A caregiver-infant pair is assigned to a classroom for the school year, meeting with the students frequently in order for them to build a bond with the baby.
During this classroom time, the students learn by observing the infant’s development and having accompanying, age-appropriate curriculum.
The infant in a way becomes the teacher and helps the students explore issues like empathy, appropriate emotional expression, and bullying.
Here’s an example: The issue of bullying is brought up. The students are asked how they would feel if their classroom baby was bullied. Most respond with indignation and immediate concern for the child. Instructors then are able to steer the conversation to issues of how to counter bullying in their own surroundings.
Roots of Empathy has been studied a number of time and all have found positive long-term results in the students who have gone through their programs, which are now being offered across Canada and in a number of other English-speaking countries.
There is so much to this program that I didn’t feel that I could do it justice in a blog.
For more information on Roots of Empathy, you can visit their website here or read Mary’s book, “Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child”.
Many studies are now suggesting that building empathy in our children (and also in our patients) is one way to also build stress resilience, fortifying them to better handle possibly traumatic events in the future.
Would you like to hear more about building stress resilience and treating trauma?
Check out our courses on trauma for more information.
How have you attempted to build stress resilience and empathy in your patients?
Please leave a comment below.