At a recent training I attended, there was one quote that especially stood out in my mind. The training dealt with childhood attachment to parents and caregivers.
“Imagination is a precurser to empathy.”
For me, it was an “ah ha!” moment. It made perfect sense, though I’d never really thought about it before. A child practices a possible life scenario through imagination and is able to work through the emotions that might be felt if the situation were real. To play the role of a policeman, for example, the child has to think about what it would be like to be a policeman. Even though the understanding will be very limited, the process is important.
Imagining being in a different role can help a child develop a pattern of empathy. Makes sense, right? If we allow ourselves to imagine what it would be like in someone else’s shoes, it’s easier to understand what motivates his or her attitudes and behaviors.
Practice is important. As parents, we would be providing great opportunities for our children by encouraging imaginative play. Some ideas:
1. Limit time with electronics.
2. Play with your children (don’t be afraid to dress up and really act the part).
3. Create a “dress up” box (trunk/suitcase/tote/bin/etc.) with lots of props for costumes and pretend play.
4. Limit time with electronics.
5. Practice and present a skit or play with your children (I’m sure there would be lots of nursing home residents who would love such a visit!!).
6. Play a game with your children by reversing your roles. You pretend to be the child and allow your child to pretend to be the adult.
7. Limit time with electronics.
8. Encourage your children to read as many books as possible.
9. Read to your children.
10. Play audio books for your children.
11. Encourage your children to write a story, skit, or play.
12. Limit time with electronics.
13. Help your child make a short home movie of a story, skit, or play he or she has written.
What other ideas can you share to encourage imagination from your children?
How many of the above ideas may be adapted to help adults practice imagination?
Does your marriage need some empathy?
Keri Kitchen is a devoted wife and mother, blogger, and licensed mental health counselor. To read more about what God is doing in her life, visit her blog at www.aftertherainn.com