Dale Atkins: New Book Focuses on Developing Compassion in Children

Psychologist aims to build mental and emotional health for all stages of life.

Dale Atkins (’82, Ph.D., Educational Philosophy) has had an extensive career in the field of psychology. After becoming a licensed psychologist four years after graduating from UCLA, she took her passion for mental and emotional wellness throughout the United States. From New York to Los Angeles, Atkins has worked on projects and published articles that benefit people in all stages of life. Her seventh book, “The Kindness Advantage: Cultivating Compassionate and Connected Children,” which she co-authored with her niece, Amanda Salzhauer, MSW, was released in September.

“The Kindness Advantage” is a guidebook for parents that offers inspiration and activities to teach kids empathy, inspire a culture of compassion and connection, and empower children to make a difference in their community and the world. Current prevalence of political divisiveness, intolerance, and bullying have renewed interest in the important values of community and kindness. These principles, which begin in the home, are the key to a successful and fulfilling life. Designed to be read with children as young as four years of age, the book presents ten fundamental concepts to weave into a family’s daily life.

“I was inspired to write “The Kindness Advantage” because I saw that we were raising kids who were a lot more oriented to themselves, instead of other people, their communities, and the world,” says Atkins. “It seemed to me that it would be good to try to help parents understand how to nurture what is already in us, which is a very basic hard-wired inclination towards connection and kindness.

“My niece and I were talking about it and decided to write it together. Co-writing a book with my niece was a really wonderful experience. I got to know her in a very different way, and I really respect her, her work, and the way she is parenting her three teenage girls. We really wrote the book together—sat next to each other and co-wrote every word. Now we have the next stage in the experience together, speaking about the book to parents, grandparents, and organizations, which has been a lot of fun. I’m so glad I’ve gotten to share this experience with her; even though we’re a generation apart, we were raised in such similar ways and our views on empathy and kindness were so in tune.”

Atkins has had more than 40 years of experience as a relationship expert focusing on families, wellness, managing stress, retirement, and living a balanced, meaningful life. She also created, hosted, and produced a half-hour talk show called “Dr. Dale’s Life Issues,” which aired nationally and weekly on PBS. Atkins covered a wide-range of topics, including interfaith marriage, relationships with in-laws, raising children with extra needs, and losing a pet.

Atkins’ experiences at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies have had a significant impact on her career.

“I’m very grateful for the education I had at UCLA, and for being able to explore what I wanted to learn at that time. It was a very good place for me,” she says. “UCLA gave me wonderful role models who I could learn from and look to for advice,” she says. “In particular, the Chair of Early Childhood and Developmental Studies at that time, [Professor] Norma Feshbach, was a huge influence. She is the one who introduced me to her research on empathy and emotional responsiveness, which is largely what this book is about.

“Many of the other professors and students were a huge influence on me as well. For the first time, it seemed possible to me that you could be involved in research, and also do practical clinical work, and write about it in a way that laypeople would understand. After I graduated, the first book I wrote, called “Sisters,” was a direct result of my dissertation. Later, I reconnected with one of my UCLA classmates, Meris Powell, and we co-authored a book called “From the Heart” together. So, I have UCLA to thank for both of those things.”

Atkins has authored numerous articles, chapters, and journals for professional and popular audiences alike, makes frequent media appearances, and is often a featured speaker who leads seminars around the world. She has a private psychology practice in New York City and has been a member of, and advisor to several nonprofit boards, including Jumpstart for Young Children, from which she recently retired after serving for 22 years since its founding.

Atkins is passionate about wellness in every sense of the word, and has dedicated her career to teaching others about the importance of well-being. As a relationship expert, she emphasizes the importance of individuals’ connections with one another and with the world at large.

Mental well-being in the aging community is often ignored, yet is equally, if not more, important than physical health. Many of Atkins’ lectures and workshops focus on aspects of aging, including intergenerational relationships, adaption to disability, creative caregiving, management of stressful life transitions, retirement, and health as a whole.

“I enjoy and learn a lot from working with people to discover ways to improve their lives, their relationships, their wellbeing,” Atkins says. I appreciate how different we are from one another.  However, I believe when we focus on those differences we often overlook the common humanity that links us together. I believe we are here to help one another.”

Atkins earned her B.S. in Social Studies at NYU, and her Master’s in Special Education (Deafness) from Columbia.

 

Courtesy of Dale Atkins