Schoharie Central Schools Psychologist Dr. Stacey Alexander and intern Jasmin Burke share their expertise and experience about empathy and disasters, including the 2011 Schoharie Valley floods, in the October issue of Parent Today.
In Aubrey Kammler’s article “Teachable moments: Empathy in action in times of tragedy,” the online newsletter advises readers on how to foster empathy, a learned skill, in children.
“Empathy is more than just saying the right words, it’s having a gut emotional reaction to someone’s pain and strife, or even being happy about someone’s joy,” Alexander said in the article.
“You can’t force a child or even an adult to feel bad when others are hurting. So that’s why it can be tricky,” Alexander continues. “Empathy falls under the veil of the skills parents and schools teach, and while it’s something that needs to be taught, it’s also something that needs to be nurtured. I think empathy really clicks through an experience.”
Burke spoke about losing everything she owned during the floods, which occurred just three days before she was headed to college at SUNY Cobleskill, and the help she received from others, including many strangers, after the disaster.
She is now pursuing a master’s degree in psychology and said the experience defined her career path.
“I remember all the lessons and why you should always want to help your neighbor, but to go through what I did and see how my community helped me out is something I’ll never forget,” Burke recalled in the Parent Today article.
The article includes much helpful information and advice about empathy and coping with disasters and is a good read for parents and non-parents alike.