According to psychologist Michele Borba, empathetic children are more likely to be happy and successful in life. Borba’s theory is that selfishness is one of the significant causes of depression and other mental illnesses, which are currently on the rise.
But empathy isn’t natural. It must be learned, which is why the Denmark school system has implemented an empathy program. The school system has required this program since 1993.
From the ages of six through sixteen, students participate in a one-hour empathy lesson each week. During this hour, students talk about their problems, and the entire class works together to come up with solutions.
Any kind of issue can be brought up, whether personal or school-related. The teacher uses this opportunity to teach the students listening skills that promote compassion.
When looking at the data from a University of Michigan study, it becomes clear that teaching children how to be empathetic is crucial. According to the research, about 14,000 college-level students have less empathy than the students in the 1980s and 1990s.
Teaching kids about empathy can reverse this downward trend. And if Borba is right, children who learn how to be empathetic will grow into happy adults. Maybe that’s why Denmark ranks with the top three countries in the UN’s World Happiness Report.
And the positive results of empathy extend beyond those who show it. Empathetic children will probably become compassionate adults, which might motivate them to fight for changes that make the world a better place.