Q: Dear Dr. Fran, my wife and I are worried about our 16-year-old daughter. At times she can be cold, callous, and mean to us. Compassion does not seem to be part of her personality. Can this be taught? Please help us! -Jason E.
A: Dear Jason: empathy and compassion are learned best by experience. If the child is treated with warmth, empathy, and compassion, she has a high likelihood of becoming an empathic adolescent and adult.
Of course, this empathic relating must begin at birth when the new mom responds to each of her infant’s cries/needs. This warm maternal response should carry through into the early and middle childhood years.