Teaching Empathy through Role Play

Teaching Empathy through Role Play

I have the privilege today of concluding a 5 part series entitled “How to Cultivate Empathy in  your Child’s Heart. Four inspiring bloggers have written posts each day this week on the topic. Each shares their unique perspective and method to exploring empathy with children. Links to their articles are at the end of this post.

Teaching Empathy through Role Play [the House of Hendrix}

At the moment, my children could use a little help on matters pertaining to empathy. So I took 3 circumstances that our family has recently encountered, and we decided to switch places through role play.

  • We’re going to walk in their shoes.
  • We’re going to record the difficulties, frustrations, and emotions associated with each situation.
  • Most importantly we want to learn how to respond to our empathy.   How are we going to act differently in the future because of it?

role play #1  –  A Broken Arm

We took some Pre-Wrap that my daughter uses to make headbands and made some casts securing their arms against their waist. The day continued as usual.Teaching Empathy through Role Play [the House of Hendrix}


Difficulties and Frustrations with a Broken Arm: (in their words…)

  • Tough getting dressed
  • Even tougher brushing my hair & putting it in a ponytail
  • Only having one hand to play video games
  • Carrying heavy things like the laundry basket
  • Not being able to swim with the other kids.
  • Impossible to tie my shoes
  • It wasn’t comfortableTeaching Empathy through Role Play [the House of Hendrix}

What I’ll do next time a friend has a broken arm: I’ll…(kid’s words)

  • Help them carry their books and backpack at school
  • If we are at the pool, play a game with them that isn’t in the water.
  • Open their door or tie their shoes
  • Braid their hair for them.
  • Say sorry their arm is itchy and you hope they feel better

role play #2  – Being Blind (or physically impaired) 

They took turns covering each others eyes with a scarf. We headed to Target to get school supplies.

Teaching Empathy through Role Play [the House of Hendrix}Teaching Empathy through Role Play [the House of Hendrix}

Difficulties of a physical impairment like being blind:

  • People stared at us.
  • You have to ask for a lot of help
  • I didn’t know what my brothers were laughing at, and I thought it was me.
  • I felt like nobody wanted to play with me.
  • It was hard to find the school supplies I needed.

Teaching Empathy through Role Play [the House of Hendrix}

Even with limited vision, she was still able to swat her brothers.

What I’ll do next time I’m with a friend that is physically impaired

  • I won’t stare even if they don’t see me. I’ll smile instead.
  • I will ask them if they want to play with me because they are a lot of games they can still play.
  • I’ll ask them if they need help finding something or getting somewhere.
  • If something is funny, I’ll explain what it is, so they don’t think they are being laughed at.

role play #3 No food for Dinner

My youngest swapped out our 3rd role play activity to ‘Having nothing to eat for dinner’. I thought it was a fabulous idea since so many children in our country experience hunger on a daily basis. That said, only my youngest participated in this one.Teaching Empathy to children [the House of Hendrix}

Difficulties with having No Dinner:

  • I’m starving all the time
  • I’m staring at other people’s food wishing it was mine
  • My tummy is making noises

Next time I see somebody who is hungry, I’ll…

  • Definitely give them some of my food.
  • Say a prayer that God will provide some food and make their tummy not hurt.
  • Be nice to them because they are probably grouchy.

I participated in this series on empathy because dear friends have walked along side of me through trials not their own. Their ability to empathize with my various circumstances was seen through overflowing compassion upon me. My soul was ministered to. I want my children to have that type of heart…one that not only finds a way to relate to another, but then responds to it with encouragement, hope or a simple hug.

Check our the other articles in this 5 part series “How to Cultivate Empathy in your Child’s Heart”:

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The Not-So-Perfect 1st day of school

The Not-So-Perfect 1st day of school

In the excitement of a new school year, don't forget the underlying things kids really need. | the House of HendrixOur not-so-perfect 1st day of school

This picture…yup, it’s from last year. Want to know why? Because today it just didn’t work. Any of it!

Last night, I laid out freshly-cleaned uniforms in each of their rooms. I had lunches made, water bottles filled, and backpacks ready to go by the door. I planned a waffle breakfast and set my alarm clock 30 minutes earlier than necessary to ensure there would be extra time for cuddles and reassurance. I even had our chalkboard sign ready for pictures, like the ones currently flooding my Facebook scroll.  So this should be a happy post about the excitement of the first day of school.

But sometimes life just isn’t like that. It’s messy, unpredictable, and you just have to roll with the punches.

We had a good start but the last 10 minutes killed us. My son spilled syrup on that freshly-cleaned shirt. “No problem Sugar Dumpling. Let me get you another shirt.” Yay, we did that 3 times and there was no Sugar Dumping that 3rd time.

Our other son decided  kids would think his combed hair looked weird, so he put his hand to the top of his head and made circles until every last piece of hair was stuck in a different direction. Dad reprimanded and brushed it again. Lip quivering with anxiety over what the 1st graders would think, his hand returns to his head only this time evident it had nothing to do with his actual hair.   We told him his hair looked cool.

Then my daughter didn’t believe I had really signed her up for Hot Lunch and insisted on seeing the email confirmation before she would get in the car.

When I tried to take that 1st Day of School picture that I have taken every year since birth, the boys fought over who got to hold the sign, that is until the sprinklers went off spraying the chalk lettering. It was only kinda funny at the time.The not-so-perfect 1st day of school [the House of Hendrix}

It didn’t matter how much I prepared last night, today was going to be messy. We had nerves, anticipation, and a drippy eater. I was reminded it’s not my job to make the morning routine perfect, it’s my job to create an atmosphere that when they have their moments of anxiety and insecurity, there is warmth, guidance and grace.

I was once the maid of honor in a beautiful wedding where every detail was perfect. As I went to straighten the bride’s gown mid-ceremony, I knocked the tall glass-encased candles which lined the stairs to the altar. Every eye including my own froze with anticipation as we waited for the shattering of the glass at the bride’s feet. Thankfully it didn’t and there was laughter instead, but the bride’s mother came up to me afterwards and said  “Allison, thank you! I had been holding my breath for the perfect wedding and once you knocked that over, I finally exhaled. I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect and I was able to enjoy the moment.”  Uh, you’re welcome?

How often does our desire to create a perfect moment for our loved ones get derailed by the unexpected? What my children needed this morning wasn’t another cute picture in front of the house, they needed to know that there was order and certainty to the lunch process. They needed reassurance over an acceptance issue revealing itself through hair. And they needed to know that a little spilled syrup doesn’t have to ruin your day.

 The House of Hendrix

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35 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Girlfriends

35 Things I want my Daughter to Know about Girlfriends [the House of Hendrix}Mine are called The Tias. Yours may be called The YaYa’s or simply the Girls. In any case they are the trusted women who show up when life stinks and celebrate when it doesn’t. They are strong, loyal friends who think you’re beautiful in sweats but fully appreciate a sassy outfit or new tassle necklace. Last year when Tiff came to the pool in her fabulous find, an Old Navy striped bikini, Paige and I immediately ran out and bought the same one. 35 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Girlfriends {the House of Hendrix}Didn’t need to ask.

The Tias know both the tenderness and selfishness of my heart and love me anyways. They aren’t afraid to tell me I need a haircut, nor would I be offended. They have earned that right. We have been friends for over 30 years. Longevity doesn’t necessarily elicit a deeper friendship but it sure keeps you from having to explain yourself. They know my stories…my failures…my hiccups. They remember…and graciously forget.

They remind me of my strength and never withhold a compliment. Life’s too short not to celebrate one other.

After I had my 1st miscarriage, I intended to grieve with a glass of wine while watching the red carpet of the Oscars. Some of the Tias drove 6 hours in black tie gowns to surprise me just before it began. They fed me cookie dough off a silver platter and carpeted my floor with red towels so I too could walk the red carpet. We chatted about our favorite dresses and hair styles, and then sobbed during commercials over my empty womb…then they drove 6 hours home. Loyal! Dependable! They show up when it matters!35 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Girlfriends {the House of Hendrix}

We laugh hard and cry easily, often at the same time. We help each other embrace our imperfections as women, wives and mothers.

This past week we were able to all be together. I returned home yesterday refreshed and inspired by these amazing ladies, their spouses and children. They fill me with JOY.

My prayer is that my daughter too will find these special relationships, ones that don’t judge but can ask the hard questions. Friendships where competition and insecurity are replaced by encouragement and trust. I desire for my daughter to truly know how to celebrate other women because once that is mastered, a Tia has been made.35 Things I want my Daughter to know about Girlfriends [the House of Hendrix}

35 things I want my daughter to know about Girlfriends:

(a collection from a few of my trusted gals)

  1. True girlfriends are those who will tell you the good and the bad. And find a way to make you feel OK about both.
  2. Your best friend may have other friends too. That’s ok.
  3. A girlfriend understands that we all want to feel celebrated on our birthdays.
  4. Girlfriends come in all colors, shapes, and energy levels. Don’t have a type. You will miss out.
  5. We are all imperfect people. Your friends will disappoint you. Forgive them even before they ask.
  6. True girlfriends are those who meet you in the middle, and sit with you if the moment calls for sitting, and walk with you when you can move forward again.
  7.  Be brave enough to be real. Your Authentic self is enough.
  8. You know she’s a true girlfriend when you don’t clean up before she comes over… you’re comfortable allowing her to see YOU, mess and all.
  9. A lack of phone contact should not breed insecurity, just an excitement for when you finally do connect. Pick up where you left off, no guilt or hesitation. Life is hard and we all know it. Grace should be freely given.
  10. Life gets busy though. Be intentional.
  11. Love them well. That will look different for each friend.
  12. Truly good friends are your best cheerleaders– they make you feel like everything you want is possible.
  13. If you find a friend that can make you laugh so hard you pee….don’t let her go.
  14. There are no gasps or judgement when your child has a meltdown in front of her. Just a chuckle and a story about when her own child slapped her mother-in-law in the face.
  15. Always reach out to the new girl in school or life. Always. 
  16. A phone date together with a glass of wine and sleeping children can be as fulfilling as a dinner out.
  17. True girlfriends are those who take and give in equal measure – but always remember to measure over the length of a yard and not over the length of an inch.
  18. There’s a fine line between sharing information and gossiping. Don’t cross it and ask your friends to do the same.
  19. You can make a friend feel loved by loving on her children.
  20. It is a blessing to have an intimate few but always have room at your table. Be the anti-clique clique.
  21. Don’t be a high maintenance friend, life’s hard enough. Just love well and often.
  22. Laugh and cry together, often at the same time.
  23. Don’t flirt with her boyfriend, spouse or love interest.
  24. Remember your life and family are not supposed to look like hers. You were created differently. Don’t compare.
  25. Friends should never feel like an obligation.
  26. Girlfriends know when to simply say “you will get through this, I promise.”
  27. When you know you are crazy, your girlfriend can assure you, you are normal, even though you are crazy.
  28. A girlfriend understands your hormones, at all the different stages of womanhood.
  29. Be Trustworthy  “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.”
  30. True girlfriends always know how to point out the best in each other.
  31. Apologize when you screw up, because you will.
  32. Don’t just say you’re going to pray for her, actually pray, even when she doesn’t ask.
  33. Know the purity of her heart. It’ll make it easier to give her the benefit of doubt.
  34. Give of yourself expecting nothing in return. A true friend will reciprocate when she is able.
  35. You have been placed in each others lives with great purpose. Cherish each other.

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