Three Ways to Raise Empathic Kids So They Become Compassionate Adults. Considering how to make the children in our lives better people helps us reflect on how we ourselves can be more compassionate.
BY PATRICIA ROCKMAN AND EVAN COLLINS, SEPTEMBER 17, 2019, KIDS
In this series of articles, we have been examining how mindfulness can sometimes inadvertently reinforce the self-centeredness and self-absorption of our current times and how we may counter this through compassion in action. We need to remind ourselves that the true roots of mindfulness and compassion are intended to relieve the suffering of others as much as ourselves.
In exploring the ways that we can direct compassion to others, what better way than to consider children. Endeavoring to raise an empathic child who is attentive to others helps build a better community and counters the “me” culture that is so prevalent today. Further, considering how to make the children in our lives better people helps us reflect on how we ourselves can be more compassionate.
Michelle Borba is an educational psychologist and expert in parenting, bullying, and empathy, and author of many books on character development in children, the most recent being UnSelfie: why empathic kids succeed in our all-about-me world (Simon & Schuster, 2016). In her work, she outlines current research on empathy in children and how we might cultivate kindness and caring in kids at different ages. She cites studies that show teens score 40% lower in empathy and are 58% more narcissistic than 30 years ago. Along with this, research shows increases in school and internet-based cruelty and bullying along with more cheating and less moral reasoning. Borba talks about the “Selfie Syndrome” as a form of growing narcissism in children and teens characterized by self-preoccupation, entitlement, difficulty taking responsibility and criticism, and feeling above the rules. This syndrome appears to be at least partially tied to our high pressure, media-saturated, high-tech culture.
Teaching Kids Emotional LiteracyIf empathy is feeling another’s suffering and compassion is the desire to alleviate it then empathy is the gateway and what may be the antidote to the Selfie Syndrome (in our children and ourselves). And encouraging empathy begins with the development of emotional literacy: recognizing, labeling and managing both our own and others’ feelings. This core skill is especially important for boys who, in our hyper-macho culture, show lower levels of emotional literacy than girls.
Here are a few simple ways to begin helping young children learn emotional literacy:
Cultivating Perspective-Taking with KidsIn contrast to sympathy, in which one cares but does not necessarily feel another’s suffering, empathy involves perspective taking, wherein we begin to understand the thoughts, emotions, and needs of others, developing the ability to walk in their shoes. This skill paves the way for kindness, as well as supports learning how to compromise and resolve conflict. The component parts to seeing another’s point-of-view include paying attention to others through focused, attentive listening and reading non-verbal cues; identifying thoughts, feelings, motivations and intentions; and imagining the other person’s experience with consideration of its impact. For example, if a child hurts another by name calling or taking away a toy, you might ask, “How would you feel if your friend did that to you?”
Here are a few ways to cultivate perspective-taking with children:
Nourishing a Strong Moral CompassAnother core skill for encouraging empathy is building a strong moral compass. As adults, we model our own ethical codes and values for the children in our lives, and we articulate the values of our family and community. We also nurture and reinforce prosocial actions, like …. holding the door for strangers, volunteering in our community, helping a neighbor in need, donating our time or money, or going to a rally or demonstration. We are socializing our children with respect to what we consider right and wrong, focussing on both character and behavior; nurturing the traits of kindness, caring and generosity. When we praise our children for their displays of these behaviors, big or small, we reinforce the idea that their character and moral compass is as important as their scholastic, social and physical accomplishments.
Raising empathic kids who grow into compassionate adults is not easy, especially when so many currents in contemporary society work against a focus on others and the importance of emotional intelligence. it. With our cultural and political leaders increasingly, and unapologetically, acting in self-absorbed and self-serving ways, instilling in our children these skills of emotional literacy, perspective taking and developing a moral compass is one of the most radical, courageous, and hopeful things we can do for our future generations.
Compulsive sexual behavior is sometimes called hypersexuality, hypersexuality disorder or sexual addiction. It's an excessive preoccupation with sexual fantasies, urges or behaviors that is difficult to control, causes you distress, or negatively affects your health, job, relationships or other parts of your life.
Compulsive sexual behavior may involve a variety of commonly enjoyable sexual experiences. Examples include masturbation, cybersex, multiple sexual partners, use of pornography or paying for sex. When these sexual behaviors become a major focus in your life, are difficult to control, and are disruptive or harmful to you or others, they may be considered compulsive sexual behavior.
No matter what it's called or the exact nature of the behavior, untreated compulsive sexual behavior can damage your self-esteem, relationships, career, health and other people. But with treatment and self-help, you can learn to manage compulsive sexual behavior.
SymptomsSome indications that you may be struggling with compulsive sexual behavior include:
When to see a doctorSeek help if you feel you've lost control of your sexual behavior, especially if your behavior causes problems for you or other people. Compulsive sexual behavior tends to escalate over time, so get help when you first recognize there may be a problem.
As you decide whether to seek professional help, ask yourself:
Seek treatment right awaySeek immediate treatment if:
CausesAlthough the causes of compulsive sexual behavior are unclear, they may include:
Risk factorsCompulsive sexual behavior can occur in both men and women, though it may be more common in men. It can also affect anyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Factors that may increase risk of compulsive sexual behavior include:
ComplicationsCompulsive sexual behavior can have many negative consequences that affect both you and others. You may:
A new study of men and women with hypersexual disorder has revealed a possible role of the hormone oxytocin, according to results published in the journal Epigenetics. The finding could potentially open the door to treating the disorder by engineering a way to suppress its activity.
NEUROSCIENCE NEWS SEPTEMBER 23, 2019
Hypersexual disorder, or an overactive sex drive, is recognized as a compulsive sexual behaviour disorder, listed as an impulse-control disorder by the World Health Organisation. It can be characterized by obsessive thoughts of sex, a compulsion to perform sexual acts, a loss of control, or sexual habits that carry potential problems or risks. While prevalence estimates vary, literature indicates that hypersexual disorder affects 3-6% of population.
Controversy surrounds diagnosis because it often occurs alongside other mental health issues, suggesting it could be an extension or manifestation of an existing mental disorder. Little is known about the neurobiology behind it.
“We set out to investigate the epigenetic regulatory mechanisms behind hypersexual disorder so we could determine whether it has any hallmarks that make it distinct from other health issues,” says lead author Adrian Boström from the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University, Sweden who conducted the study with researchers from the Andrology/Sexual Medicine Group (ANOVA) at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
“To our knowledge, our study is the first to implicate dysregulated epigenetic mechanisms of both DNA methylation and microRNA activity and the involvement of oxytocin in the brain among patients seeking treatment for hypersexuality.”
The scientists measured DNA methylation patterns in the blood from 60 patients with hypersexual disorder and compared them to samples from 33 healthy volunteers.
They investigated 8,852 regions of DNA methylation associated to nearby microRNAs to identify any variations between samples. DNA methylation can affect gene expression and the function of genes, typically acting to reduce their activity. Where changes in DNA methylation were detected, the researchers investigated levels of gene expression of the associated microRNA. MicroRNAs are particularly interesting as they can pass the blood-brain-barrier and modulate or degrade the expression of up to several hundred different genes in brain and other tissues.
They also compared their findings to samples from 107 subjects, 24 of whom were alcohol-dependent, to explore an association with addictive behaviour.
Results identified two regions of DNA that were altered in hypersexual disorder patients. Normal function of DNA methylation was disrupted and an associated microRNA, involved in gene silencing, was found to be under-expressed. Analysis revealed that the microRNA identified, microRNA-4456, targets genes that are normally expressed at particularly high levels in the brain and that are involved in the regulation of the hormone oxytocin. With gene silencing reduced, oxytocin may be expected to be at elevated levels, although the current study does not confirm this.
It has been seen in specific vole and primate species the neuropeptide oxytocin plays a central role in the regulation of pair-bonding behaviour. Previous studies have demonstrated that oxytocin is associated with the regulation of social and pair-bonding, sexual reproduction and aggressive behaviour in both men and women. The comparison with alcohol-dependent subjects revealed the same DNA region to be significantly under-methylated, suggesting that it may be primarily associated with the addictive components of hypersexual disorder, such as sex addiction, dysregulated sexual desire, compulsivity and impulsivity.
“Further research will be needed to investigate the role of microRNA-4456 and oxytocin in hypersexual disorder, but our results suggest it could be worthwhile to examine the benefits of drug and psychotherapy to reduce the activity of oxytocin,” says Professor Jussi Jokinen from Umeå University, Sweden.
The authors note that a limitation of the study is that the mean difference in DNA methylation between hypersexual disorder patients and healthy volunteers was only around 2.6%, so the impact on physiological changes might be called into question. However, a growing body of evidence suggestions that just subtle methylation changes can have wide-ranging consequences for complex conditions such as depression or schizophrenia.
ABOUT THIS NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH ARTICLE
Taylor & Francis Group
Krystina Sihdu – Taylor & Francis Group
The image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Closed access
“Hypermethylation-associated downregulation of microRNA-4456 in hypersexual disorder with putative influence on oxytocin signalling: A DNA methylation analysis of miRNA genes”. Adrian Boström et al.
Hypermethylation-associated downregulation of microRNA-4456 in hypersexual disorder with putative influence on oxytocin signalling: A DNA methylation analysis of miRNA genes
Hypersexual disorder (HD) was proposed as a diagnosis in the DSM-5 and the classification ‘Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder’ is now presented as an impulse-control disorder in ICD-11. HD incorporates several pathophysiological mechanisms; including impulsivity, compulsivity, sexual desire dysregulation and sexual addiction. No previous study investigated HD in a methylation analysis limited to microRNA (miRNA) associated CpG-sites. The genome wide methylation pattern was measured in whole blood from 60 subjects with HD and 33 healthy volunteers using the Illumina EPIC BeadChip. 8,852 miRNA associated CpG-sites were investigated in multiple linear regression analyses of methylation M-values to a binary independent variable of disease state (HD or healthy volunteer), adjusting for optimally determined covariates. Expression levels of candidate miRNAs were investigated in the same individuals for differential expression analysis. Candidate methylation loci were further studied for an association with alcohol dependence in an independent cohort of 107 subjects. Two CpG-sites were borderline significant in HD – cg18222192 (MIR708)(p < 10E-05,pFDR = 5.81E-02) and cg01299774 (MIR4456)(p < 10E-06, pFDR = 5.81E-02). MIR4456 was significantly lower expressed in HD in both univariate (p < 0.0001) and multivariate (p < 0.05) analyses. Cg01299774 methylation levels were inversely correlated with expression levels of MIR4456 (p < 0.01) and were also differentially methylated in alcohol dependence (p = 0.026). Gene target prediction and pathway analysis revealed that MIR4456 putatively targets genes preferentially expressed in brain and that are involved in major neuronal molecular mechanisms thought to be relevant for HD, e.g., the oxytocin signalling pathway. In summary, our study implicates a potential contribution of MIR4456 in the pathophysiology of HD by putatively influencing oxytocin signalling.
Jeff Stull DMin PhD
Dr. Jeff Stull is an Individual, Marriage and Family Counselor who enjoys assisting his clients in developing creative alternatives to everyday life, love and work challenges. As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Mental Health Counselor he has specialized trainings in Relationship Repair, Abuse Recovery, Adolescents, and Mindfulness. He holds certifications including Professional Counseling Supervision, Clinical Sexology, Professional Christian Counseling and Accelerated Resolution Therapy(ART). He serves his clients in Alpharetta, Cumming and Dahlonega, Georgia and all over the world via Skype.