Showcase Salutes Szechuan Delight

Szechuan food

By Susan Baldani

Szechuan Delight, located in New Providence, has been in business for 28 years. It’s known for authentic Chinese food, specializing in Cantonese and Shanghainese food.

According to the owner, it is the only Chinese restaurant in the area that serves purely Chinese food; there are no other Asian dishes, such as Thai or Japanese, on the menu.

Much of the staff, including the main chefs, have been with Szechuan Delight from the very beginning, and have been using the same authentic recipes for all those years. A few of the most popular items are the steamed whole fish and soft shell crabs, and of course, traditional favorites like pork fried rice, lo mein, chow mein and chow fun can also be found.

Their specialties include many well-known dishes such as General Tso’s Chicken, Hunan Triple Crown and Mongolian Beef. There are also plenty of seafood dishes such as Shrimp with Lobster Sauce, Scallops with Mixed Vegetables, and Fillet of Sole with Ginger and Scallions. For those looking for vegetable-based choices, there are Moo Shu Vegetables with Pancakes, Hot Spiced Bean Curd, and Shanghai Bok Choy with Black Mushrooms.

The most unique offerings of Szechuan Delight are the casserole dishes, like Seafood and Tofu, Braised Lamb with Bean Curd Skin and Roast Pork, Chicken, and Shrimp with Tofu. Besides being an authentic Chinese restaurant, offering these dishes is something the owner believes makes them stand out from other similar dining establishments in the area.

The restaurant itself is casual, with a roomy and open dining room with seating for 70 customers. Diners are free to bring their own wine and other alcoholic beverages to accompany their meals. There is also a private party room available, or they can put together party platters to be enjoyed elsewhere.

In addition to dine-in, Szechuan Delight does a brisk take-out business and offers free delivery within a five mile radius for any order over $15.00. Easy and convenient online ordering is also available. Besides dinner, they offer a full range of luncheon specials such as Kung Po Shrimp and Chicken, Singapore Mei Fun, Barbecue Spare Ribs and Salt and Pepper Pork Chops.

The restaurant is conveniently located right next to the New Providence Post Office on the main thoroughfare of Central Avenue. It’s also close to many businesses and the Murray Hill train station.

Szechuan Delight is open seven days a week; from Mondays through Thursdays from 11:30 am to 9:30 pm, on Fridays and Saturdays from 11:30 to 10:30 and on Sundays from 12:30 pm to 9:30 pm. For more information, please call 908-464-0100, go to www. Szechuan DelightNJ.com, or stop in at 598 Central Avenue in New Providence, NJ 07940.

Written for The Showcase Magazine, in Warren, NJ.

A Sweet Start to the New Year

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By Susan Baldani

I just found out that January 27 is Chocolate Cake Appreciation Day. Of course, card companies are always coming up with special days so they can sell more cards. However, any day that encourages me to eat chocolate is my kind of day. And it doesn’t have to be in cake form; almost any variety will do.

I find it interesting that this holiday comes at the end of January instead of at the beginning. I guess they figure by then all those New Year’s Eve resolutions to lose weight have already fallen by the wayside.

But seriously (and I’m always serious when it comes to chocolate), this is one food I couldn’t live without. There’s just something about chocolate that makes me happy. And it’s not just the sugar. There’s something about the taste of chocolate that is comforting too.

When I was a little kid, any kind of chocolate would do. But, now that I’m older and have a somewhat more discerning palate, specialty chocolates are my favorites, especially anything that has been made in Switzerland. My ancestors really knew what they were doing (my maiden name is Burkhardt). The gourmet brands of chocolates are not always easy to find, especially in big brand stores. You sometimes have to hunt them down. Many small gift and boutique stores usually have them though if you take the time to look around.

In the last few years, I’ve heard reports that chocolate can even be good for you, but that usually only goes for dark. I am a milk chocolate aficionado and will not eat any other kind (and don’t even mention white chocolate. I mean, what is that anyway?).

As much as I love chocolate, I know that sweets should be consumed in moderation, and I try to follow that guideline; I really do. So, if I’m going to treat myself, I’m going for the good stuff.

This is not to say I don’t like a good ole Hershey Bar once in a while or unwrapping some of those creamy Dove candies; they have their place. I’m not a total chocolate snob. But, oh, those packages that say “milk chocolate flavored.” Well, those should be outlawed. Whenever I see a chocolate bunny or other item labeled with those awful words, I want scoop them all off the shelf lest some little kid be lured into eating one. That might turn him off of chocolate forever.

So, on Chocolate Cake Appreciation Day, I also want the best. I have nothing against boxed cake mixes and tubs of ready-made icing. They come in handy for last-minute desserts, or for a child’s birthday party, and most are actually pretty good. But, on Chocolate Cake Appreciation Day, why not make the real thing? The only danger is that you may never want to go back to the store-bought variety again.

Written for the Country Register, which is distributed all over the U.S. and Canada.

 

CHOCOLATE CAKE APPRECIATION DAY CAKE

Ingredients:

2/3 cup butter, softened

1-2/3 cups sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup baking cocoa

1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1-1/3 cups whole milk

 

Directions:

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture and add milk a little at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13 x 9-inch pan.

Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. When cake is cool, frost with chocolate cream cheese frosting.

CHOCOLATE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Ingredients:

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/3 cup baking cocoa

Dash salt

3 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions:

 

Beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar, cocoa, salt, milk and vanilla and mix well. Spread over cooled cake. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Fuel your child’s mind and body

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Nutritious foods and beverages set the stage for optimal learning

By Susan Baldani

Many variables contribute to a child’s academic success. Focus is often on student-teacher ratio, parental involvement, and access to support services for kids who are struggling. Of course, all these factors are very critical, but one that is often forgotten is the importance of good nutrition when it comes to learning.

Research has proven that children who eat healthy breakfasts and well-balanced lunches are often more alert, more productive and less tired and jittery during the school day. Foods and beverages that children often prefer for breakfast, such as high-sugar cereals and juice, can initially lead to a burst of energy that quickly dissipates, leaving them hungry and irritable. Lunch foods such as chicken fingers and cheeseburgers are also detrimental. According to the Society for Neuroscience, recent studies revealed that diets with high levels of saturated fats actually impair learning and memory.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that “eating a healthy breakfast is associated with improved cognitive function (especially memory), reduced absenteeism, and improved mood.” They also found that “empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calories for children and adolescents age 2–18 years. Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.”

Schools are trying to do their part to give their students a nutritional advantage. An initiative called “The Healthy Schools Program” has been incorporated into schools across the U.S., replacing many of the processed lunch foods with fruits, salads, and lean proteins. Low fat milk and water are also being offered.

So, what can parents do at home?  Mornings are often hectic with parents trying to get to work and kids to school and children often skip breakfast for many reasons. Some have early morning extracurricular activities or have to make an early bus. Others may be trying to finish homework or a project from the night before.

Because parents and caregivers cannot always control what their children choose for lunch, breakfast is even more important. So, why not set the alarm clock for 15 or 20 minutes earlier? This way, both parents and kids have more time in the morning and can choose meals that are fast and nutritious, like the combinations below:

  • Low-sugar, whole-grain cereal, low fat milk, and sliced banana.
  • Oatmeal with fruit and low fat milk. Choose plain quick oats and add in a small amount of honey and fruit, and pop into the microwave. Most are ready in minutes.
  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter.
  • Yogurt (buy it plain, since many yogurts have a surprisingly high amount of sugar), and mix in honey, nuts and fruit.

These are all quick and easy and if necessary, can be eaten in the car or on the bus.

If your child brings lunch, there are many options for a healthy meal. Containers with compartments or small individual containers make it easy to keep a variety of foods separate. Here are some healthy lunchtime ideas:

  • Turkey in a whole wheat wrap stuffed with lettuce and tomato and smeared with a bit of honey mustard.
  • Shredded white meat chicken with chopped up vegetables, such as celery and baby carrots.
  • Tuna pouches packed in water, or tuna mixed with low fat mayonnaise and vegetables.
  • Salad greens with sliced hard boiled eggs, low fat cheese, and low fat dressing.

Add in some tasty but nutritious snacks such as nuts, nectarines, grapes and dried fruit (with no sugar added).

Besides providing the right foods for optimal learning, it’s also important for children to consume enough liquids. The CDC found that “adequate hydration may also improve cognitive function in children and adolescents, which is important for learning.

 Because of the high sugar content, juice should be limited, or cut with water. Look for alternatives for your child. Some children may find plain water distasteful, but drop some blueberries or strawberries into the cup, and they may find it more appealing. Give them a straw, and then let them poke holes and mash the fruit to release its natural flavors.

Once children get into the habit of taking the time to eat a healthy meal, it will become another part of their routine. Parents can set a good example by eating breakfast with their children and packing some of the same meals for their lunches. This way, healthy choices will become a family affair.

Written for Roanoke Valley Family magazine in Virginia.

Making a resolution that benefits yourself and others

Ambulance
By Susan Baldani

In this new year, instead of just making a resolution to lose weight or stop smoking, why not also make a resolution to help others? After all, studies have shown that people who volunteer are happier, less stressed and enjoy a higher level of self-esteem.

Once you decide to volunteer, find a cause that is meaningful to you, and then sign up to make a difference. Unlike many other resolutions that are often broken within a month or two, you’ll find it’s much harder to break a promise to others, especially when they’re relying on you for their basic needs.

For adults, volunteering is a chance to meet other like-minded people and do something much different than their chosen career. It’s also an opportunity to learn a new skill, enrich your mind, and help your community.

Volunteering is also a wonderful way for teens to try out different professions to help them decide what they may want to do in the future. For example, if they’re interested in medicine, they can join a local ambulance corps like the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad, or volunteer at a hospital. Or, if they think they may want to work in construction, they can help build homes with Habitat for Humanity.

The rewards of volunteering are not just experienced by the recipients, but by the givers as well. So, whatever your interests or talents, there is a cause looking for help. Some people find it easier to give money, which by all means is sorely needed and important. But it’s getting out there and joining with other people who have the same goals in mind that makes volunteering so meaningful.

For more information on volunteering for the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad or to obtain an application, please go to our website at http://www.scotchplainsrescuesquad.com, email us at scotchplainsrescuesquad@gmail.com, or call 908-322-2103.

New Year’s Eve celebrations throughout the years

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By Susan Baldani

As a child, my mother or grandmother would send us out to the front porch with pots and pans to bang together at midnight to ring in the new year. Sometimes we even had noisemakers. I’m sure the neighbors loved us.

When I was in my teens and twenties, my friends and I would always try to come up with the most exciting plans for New Year’s Eve. It was the celebration of a new year ahead and a chance to experience whatever we missed the year before. Inevitably, with all the buildup, our plans never did live up to the hype.

I’m not sure what we were doing wrong, but we were usually disappointed. It was nothing like it looked on television, with everyone cheering and hugging and having a fabulous time. Clubs and restaurants were always so crowded and everything seemed to cost a lot of money. Dancing was almost impossible since you could barely move in the crowd, and conversation was difficult because it was so loud you had to shout to be heard.

As I got older, I began to appreciate quieter nights at home where I could hang out with family and good friends, eat in front of the television, and watch the ball drop in Times Square. (By the way, even though I live close to New York City, this is one place I never aspired to spend New Year’s Eve. Hours of waiting in a large crowd, sometimes in the frigid cold, was not my idea of a good time.)

My friends and I soon realized that spending time with each other and our spouses and reminiscing about good times, while staying cozy and warm, was one of the best ways to spend this momentous occasion. I knew we would be making new memories with each other in the next 12 months and hopefully would be together again at the end of it to celebrate once again.

Now, several years later, I’m happy if I can stay up until midnight. It’s not that I’m old; at least I don’t think I am. It’s just that I prefer to go to bed early.

So, when I do fall asleep before 12:00, my husband will wake me up before the ball drops to zero to wish me a good year and give me a goodnight kiss. For me, this is the perfect way to both end and start a new year.

“Here’s a toast to the future, a toast to the past, and a toast to our friends, far and near. May the future be pleasant, the past a bright dream; may our friends remain faithful and dear.” — Anonymous

Written for The Country Register  – distributed across the U.S. and Canada.

Ultimate Holiday Appetizers

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By Susan Baldani

Ultimate Holiday Appetizers

This holiday season, while family and friends are waiting on the turkey to roast or the ham to bake, bring out some of these special starters to hold them over until dinner time. Just be careful that they leave some room for the main course!

Healthy Holiday Appetizer
Healthy does not have to be boring. Serve these at your holiday parties and it’ll be anything but ho hum.

Butternut Squash and Feta Tartlets
These tarts are packed with so much flavor and goodness that guests won’t realize they’re actually good for them. The nuttiness of the squash combined with the tartness of the cheese will satisfy all palates.

Classic Party Appetizer
There’s a reason why this appetizer has been served at parties for many, many years. Guests are never disappointed to find this oldie but goodie laid out on the table.

Spinach Artichoke Dip
This beloved dip can be served with chips, crackers and a variety of vegetables. Include green and red vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers for a festive platter. To really jazz it up, serve in a round hollowed-out pumpernickel bread.

Quick and Easy Appetizer
Add this simple appetizer to your party menu and impress your guests. No one will ever know how easy it was to make.

Cranberry Brie Pull-Apart Bread
This flavorful bread is just perfect for the holiday table. Stuffed with tart cranberries and creamy cheese, it’s a combination that’s sure to please. And it’s just so much fun to pull it all apart.

Festive and fancy appetizer
Want to add a little elegance to your party? Serve this delicious offering on a beautiful china platter.

Goat Cheese Log with Cranberries, Chives and Black Pepper
Add holiday color to your cheese plater with this beautiful cheese log. Surround with holiday-shaped crackers to make it even more special.

Fun and festive finger food appetizers for children
This appetizer is so adorable and delicious, you might have a hard time keeping the adults away from the kids’ table.

Babybel Cheese Santa Pops
It doesn’t get much cuter than this Babybel Santa on a stick. So easy to make, and children will find it hard to eat just one of these healthy snacks. To make them even more special, have the kids make them with you.

To find these recipes and more, check out the following websites:

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/christmas-ideas/g794/christmas-appetizers/
https://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/food-drinks/g2058/healthy-holiday-snacks-for-kids/
https://www.delish.com/holiday-recipes/christmas/g1713/holiday-party-appetizers/
https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/26819/hot-artichoke-and-spinach-dip-ii/

Written for Brentwood Lifestyle magazine in Brentwood, Tennessee.

35th Annual Dickens of a Christmas Festival

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A fun and educational holiday experience for the entire family

By Susan Baldani

Main Street will undergo a picturesque transformation as the 35th Annual Dickens of a Christmas Festival comes to downtown Franklin, TN the weekend of December 14. Against the backdrop of Victorian era buildings, visitors will feel like they’ve gone back in time to when Charles Dickens was alive and Tiny Tim was riding on his father’s shoulder.

“We actually have a brand new revamped section of the festival,” said Megan Hershey, Chief Operating Officer of the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County. “We’ve gotten some great feedback from our Downtown Franklin Association members as well as the general public, that they would really love Dickens to be more of a theatrical festival. That’s really what it was intended to be when it started.”

Folks dressed in Victorian era costumes and as Dickens’ story book characters will gather on sidewalks while period dancers will take over the streets. Victorian era craft demonstrations, such as candle making and weaving, will be on display, while carolers stroll by singing holiday songs. Pop-up musicians, both adults and children, will be interspersed throughout the festival playing accordions and fiddles.

“This year is probably going to be the most authentic Dickens era holiday festival that we have done. We’re really honoring it as a theatrical festival,” said Hershey.

There will also be a Holiday Town Sing, where the public can join in and enjoy their favorite holiday tunes. As there are every year, there will be plenty of activities for children and families, plus booths filled with a variety of delicious food and drinks.

The Dickens of a Christmas Festival,  sponsored by First Citizens National Bank, attracts anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000  attendees each year. As usual, most of the events are free of charge.

Carriage rides, which haven’t been a part of the festival for many years, are coming back and will most likely be stationed by the Franklin Grove Estate and Garden, which is a new project of the Heritage Foundation.

On Saturday night, at 7:00 pm, the Franklin Theater will be featuring a Christmas Carol theatrical experience featuring Jason Wood. It will be a one-man show based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Tickets are on sale now at FranklinTheatre.com.

The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on historic preservation and education. The festivals in town, which also include Pumpkin Fest and Main Street Festival, were originally started as a joint venture between the  Downtown Franklin Association and the Heritage Foundation, which have now merged, as a means of bringing tourism and traffic to downtown Franklin.

“These festivals have now become part of our cultural heritage,” said Hershey.

The Dickens of a Christmas festival will be held rain or shine from 10:00 to 7:00 on Saturday and on Sunday from 11:00 to 4:00.

“We have extended the Saturday hours because we think Franklin is so beautiful with all the Christmas lights and holiday decorations. Having this extended time allows us to go into the dusk part of the day so visitors will be better able to enjoy the lights,” said Hershey.

For more information on the festival, go to WilliamsonHeritage.org/Dickens.

Written for Franklin Lifestyle Magazine in Franklin, Tennessee.

Make shopping fun and festive

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Support local businesses this holiday season

By Susan Baldani

A few years ago, when I decided to take the train to work every day, my husband and I became a one car family. This was a smart financial choice because it saves a lot of money that would otherwise go to car payments, gas, and insurance costs. But, it does take some adjusting to. I can’t just pick up and go whenever and wherever I want.

The first year without a vehicle, I decided to do most of my Christmas shopping online. It was convenient and easy and everything was delivered right to my door. But something was missing; I found that I didn’t get the same joy out of finding the perfect item on a website that I did in a physical store.

During the holidays, I always loved walking around small shops trying to find that perfect gift while listening to Christmas carols and smelling cinnamon, maple, and pine scented holiday candles wafting through the aisles. Some of the local stores even had complimentary hot cocoa or cider for their customers. Shopping in these types of establishments always got me into the holiday spirt.

I also missed the customer service and having someone to assist me with picking out gifts for my hard-to-buy-for relatives. I found many of the local owners and managers, the people who actually ordered the merchandise, to be very knowledgeable and helpful. Whether it was the yarn shop where I would choose colors for a cousin who knits, a gift store that sold imported teas for a good friend, or a clothing store that had the most luxurious cashmere sweaters for a dear aunt who was always cold, these local shops provided the most high-quality and unique items.

Luckily, I now work in a town full of small independently-owned businesses. With a shopping mall only 10 minutes away, these store owners have to provide the best of the best in order to inspire people to shop locally. Although I can hear the same music at the large commercial stores, they just don’t have the personal service and little extras that make me feel appreciated. I’m just another revenue number to them, and shopping online is even more impersonal.

Now, although I still shop online once in a while, I also make sure to support local stores. Giving my business to them feels right, and it also makes my shopping experiences, especially around the holidays, much more enjoyable and festive.

Happy shopping and happy holidays!

 

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Hot Cranberry-Apple Cider

Ingredients

2 quarts apple cider

1.5 quarts sugar-free cranberry juice

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

4 sticks cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves

1 orange, thinly sliced Save $

Directions:

In 4-quart saucepan,  add all the ingredients except for the orange. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Strain, then pour into mugs and garnish with fresh orange slices.

 

Written for The Country Register – distributed across the U.S. and Canada.

The day after Thanksgiving

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By Susan Baldani

Thanksgiving is a day to be shared with others. Hearty food, lively conversation, and the appreciation of our blessings are always a huge part of it. However, the day after Thanksgiving is also a time to rejoice.

Since I have a major role in preparing the family meal in all of its abundance, by the time I sit down to the dinner table I’m always somewhat exhausted. And then there is the massive cleanup! Even with the assistance of a dishwasher, it can still be quite overwhelming.

By Friday afternoon, all the guests have gone home, all the pots and pans, casserole dishes, and other paraphernalia have been cleaned and put away, and the house is back in order. Best of all, all those lovely leftovers are in the fridge just waiting to be devoured.

I sit down to a leisurely meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, gravy, and hopefully, dessert, if there is any left. And not to be forgotten, luscious whipped cream to go on top of that delicious pumpkin, pecan or apple pie.

Although I love the bustle of Thanksgiving day and having family around, there is something about the peace and solitude of the day after that really gives me time to reflect on how fortunate I am. I have a close and loving family who enjoy each other’s company, a healthy body that allows me to live my life to the fullest, and great friends who are always there in good times and bad. These are riches that money can’t buy.

This year, as I prepare another Thanksgiving meal, I’ll give thanks for the day and enjoy everything it has to offer, while also secretly looking forward to the day after. I’ll also be sure to hide at least one piece of pie to savor the next day. Yes, I am very thankful for the day after Thanksgiving.

PERFECT PECAN PIE
Ingredients:

 1 whole unbaked pie crust
 1 cup white sugar
 3 tablespoons brown sugar
 1/2 teaspoon salt
 1 cup corn syrup
 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
 1/3 cup melted butter
 3 whole eggs, beaten well
 1 heaping cup of chopped pecans

Instructions:

Buy or make your favorite pie crust and press into a pie dish. Then, combine the two sugars, salt, corn syrup, butter, eggs, and vanilla together in a bowl.

Spread out the chopped pecans in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell and then pour syrup mixture over the top. Cover top and crust with foil.
Bake at 350º for 30 minutes. Remove foil, then continue baking for 20 minutes, being careful not to burn the pecans or crust. If it jiggles a lot upon removing it from oven, cover again with foil and bake for an additional 10 to 20 minutes or until set. Required baking time can vary widely with this recipe.

Allow to cool for several hours before slicing.

Written for The Country Register, published throughout the U.S. and Canada.

How to encourage and teach children to have empathy for others

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By Susan Baldani

In today’s world, fostering empathy in children is more important than ever. It has a positive impact not only on others, but also on the child demonstrating it as well.

Empathy is the ability to recognize, identify and understand feelings in others. People who are empathic show compassion for others, try to prevent actions that hurt feelings, care for those who are suffering, and also understand how their behaviors affect others, whether positively or negatively.

How do we instill empathy in young hearts and minds? There are actually a variety of strategies that can help parents, caregivers, teachers, coaches and other individuals who are involved with children. Of course, depending on a child’s age, some techniques will be more appropriate than others. However, it’s best to start early. Even very young children can learn to be caring and give comfort.

Model empathy
When your child see and hears you comforting another person, you’re sending an important message to him. He sees how you do it and learns to replicate that behavior. He also witnesses the difference a few kind words and actions can have.

Display and vocalize your own feelings
Some parents try to hide sadness or frustration from children. Tell your children when you’re going through a hard time and explain how they can help you feel better. Even if it’s just by giving you a hug or drawing you a picture, they’ll learn how they can give comfort, which in turn will give them a sense of pride in themselves.

Encourage children to express their feelings and to also ask others how they are feeling
Ask you children about their day and let them know you they can come to you when they’re having a bad day or if they are sad. Encourage them to find out how their friends and family members are doing and to really listen when they respond. Sometimes listening to someone’s problem is all that a person really needs.

Validate your children’s feelings
Children are often scared or worried about things adults may consider trivial. However, they are very important to the child at that time. Tell them you understand how stressful it can be to prepare for a test or how nerve-wracking it can be going away to camp. Instead of saying “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,” ask “Why are you worried? Let’s talk about and maybe I can help.”

“Sometimes when our child is sad, angry, or disappointed, we rush to try and fix it right away, to make the feelings go away because we want to protect him from any pain. However, these feelings are part of life and ones that children need to learn to cope with. In fact, labeling and validating difficult feelings actually helps children learn to handle them,” said Claire Lerner and Rebecca Parlakian, authors of the article “How to Help Your Child Develop Empathy.”

Other times, children get angry because they can’t do something. Parents can say, “I can see you’re upset that you can’t watch television right now, and I know you’re disappointed, but it’s time to go to bed.” While they still aren’t getting their way, their feelings are acknowledged.

Teach empathy through stories
Dr. Michele Borba, an internationally recognized expert and author on children, teens, parenting, bullying, and moral development, said, “The right book can stir a child’s empathy better than any lesson or lecture ever could. And the right book matched with the right child can be the gateway to opening his heart to humanity.” Also, tell your child stories from your own childhood and let her hear how you demonstrated empathy to others in their times of need.

Role play and show children how they can empathize with others
Because of their limited vocabulary and experiences, children may have a hard time showing their concern for others. Come up with situations where your child can practice using comforting words phrases such as “I’m sorry you’re sad. Can I help?,” or “Can I sit with you until you feel better?” Sometimes kids don’t realize what they say or do can hurt others.

For example, if your daughter’s friend wants to play with her at recess but she would rather play alone, how would she tell her friend in a kind way? Or, if your son doesn’t want his best friend to stay over one night, how would he handle it so as not to hurt his friend’s feelings?

It’s also very important to teach children how to say “I’m sorry.” Let them know that they won’t always be perfect and may still hurt someone’s feelings, but a sincere apology helps others know that they regret their behavior. The key word here is “sincere.”

Point out uncaring behavior
Dr. Borba suggests four steps to help kids respond more empathically with “CARE”: 1) Call attention to uncaring behavior; 2) Assess how uncaring affects others, helping kids to understand another’s perspective; 3) Repair the hurt and make amends; and 4) Express disappointment for uncaring behavior, while stressing expectations for caring behavior in the future.

Limit internet and phone time
Many kids, especially those in the preteen and teen years, may lose personal communication skills if they spend too much time with peers online or texting instead of having face-to-face contact. The other danger of social media is that people say things online that they would never say to someone in person. Explain how the same rules of respect and courtesy apply whether the person is in front of them, on the phone, or on the internet.

Every child is different, and some will develop empathy easier and faster than others. Be patient and continue to help them become empathetic individuals who care about their fellow classmates, friends, parents, siblings and others they come across in their day-to-day worlds.

Written for Roanoke Valley Family Magazine in Virginia.