Program to teach empathy to Albuquerque children

Created: 07/28/2014 12:19 PM
By: Nikki Ibarra, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A new program hopes to educate Albuquerque kids on what it means to be "nice" to others.

"It seems like it would be an inherent trait, but it is something that can be taught too," said Courtney Custer with the Southwest Family Guidance Center.

The center recently partnered with "Roots of Empathy" to create a program for children at four schools in Albuquerque. It's "empathy" that Custer believes should be taught everywhere these days, including the classroom.

"Bullies really have a hard time understanding how their victim feels, and if children can learn how other children feel, they're a lot more likely to be kinder to others and not be aggressive," Custer said.

Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program that teaches kids how to read other people's emotions so they can understand how the person feels. The program is centered around a baby.

For 40 minutes, nine times a year, parents and a baby visit the classroom.

"You know, babies are interesting. They want to know what the baby can do and they were very kind to the baby, wanting to take care of the baby, and that really translates into them wanting to be kind and take care of their peers," Custer said.

Custer says studies have shown that teachers have noticed their students being nicer to each other after Roots of Empathy, and that's why the guidance center wanted to bring the program to Albuquerque.

The schools participating in Roots of Empathy program include Collet Park Elementary School, Delores Gonzales Elementary School, La Mesa Elementary School and Mission Elementary School.

The center is still looking for more parent and baby volunteers. To find out how to help, contact Courtney Custer at (505)-301-3036 or by email at

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