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Empathy Map for Children and how it can be used by Parents and Teachers

The fact that you are reading this article means you are in the 10% of parents and educators who are committed to listening, watching, understanding, and interpreting your children’s needs. If you agree, the Empathy Map for children will help you to do just that. One of the ways we can begin to understand how our children feel is by observing and listening.

Developed by Dave Gray, the co-founder of strategy consultants XPlane, the Empathy Map is a powerful visualisation tool designed to help business teams use emotional intelligence to gain insight into a target group. The tool provides a series of prompts to identify a target group’s thoughts, feelings, motivations, desires, and needs. This forces the investigating team to focus on the target group’s requirements, rather than their own. A product development team, for instance, could use an Empathy Map to consider how people might respond to a new device, or a team leader might use one to assess his or her team’s reaction to a new workflow.

If understanding our customers is so important to the growth of our businesses, why don’t we make more time to do the same kinds of exercises for the children in our classrooms or families? Here is a tool that almost every marketing team in the world uses on a daily basis: the Empathy Map.

If you are an educator, as you walk around your classroom or sit and listen, pay close attention to what children care about.

If you are a parent, allow yourself a day or two over the weekend to do the same. Observe only what your children do and take notes.

Download and print the Empathy Map for children and make notes directly on the paper or on separate sticky notes and add them to your map later on.

What do you hear your children say about themselves? About others? About life in general?
What are some things you notice them doing? Pay attention to what they say, their non-verbals, their posture, and how they respond to their environment and the people in it.
Based on what you’ve heard them say and do, what do you think they are feeling?
Based on what you’ve heard them say and do, what do you think they are thinking?

One way to think more deeply about the life of your children is to pay close attention to their habits and patterns. Do you know what a typical day looks like for your children when you are not with them? (If you are an educator, what do they do at home? If you are a parent, what do they do when they are in school?)

What is the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning?
What is the last thing they do before they go to sleep at night?
What is the busiest part of their day? Where are their highs and lows?
When you are done with observing and listening, you can also invite your children into a conversation to find out even more. In the classroom, this exercise could become a talk-show-style interview. You could play the host and ask the children to be your special guests. And here are some reflection questions for after you complete the Empathy Map for children.
What is one potential point of stress in your children’s day?
What is one thing you could do to ease this problem for them?

What did you learn about your children that you didn’t know before?
What else is important to know about their daily life in relation to your parenting style or
How can you use what you know now to improve your parenting style or techniques?
How can you use what you know now to improve your communication?

How to Use the Empathy Map for Children

Empathy is a critical skill for children to develop, and it is also one of the hallmarks of emotional healing. Additionally, it is a great way to get them thinking about and understanding empathy for others. Here is how you can use it in the classroom or your home to help children develop empathy.

Here’s What You Need:
A large sheet of paper or a board.
Sticky notes.

Here’s How To Set Up the Empathy Map for children

Start by determining the situation or issue. Write it on a post-it note and stick it next to the word “issue”. The issue can be something the young person is currently going through or a hypothetical situation. In this instance, our issue for the map was “My best friend yelled at me and called me an idiot!”

Starting on the inside of the circle, use post-it notes to identify what we might hear, think, see, say, and do when faced with this issue. In this example, we heard “mean words,” “rumours” and a bad tone. We felt “anger”, “resentment” and “jealousy.” We could react by saying things like “Go away” or “I hate you.” In this part of the exercise, the point is to identify actual thoughts, actions, and feelings (expressed or unexpressed). There are no right answers and we are not searching for how
we should respond.

Once the inside of the circle is done, work through to the outside, going through each of the six sections again and focusing on what the person identified in the issue might be hearing, thinking, seeing, saying, doing, and feeling. In this example, we wondered if maybe our friend was hearing her “Dad yell at her” and taking that out on us. Perhaps she was feeling “emptiness” or “hurt.” Perhaps what she is trying to say is “Can someone listen to me?” “Please talk to me” or “Please love me.”

As you talk through the items on the outside of the circle, ask your children how thinking about what the person is going through or experiencing changes their outlook on the situation and how it might change how they react.

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