Empathy involves the ability to understand someone else’s perspective. In other terms, i is looking at life from another person’s shoes and understanding how they feel about it. In a world where bullying is prevalent in schools and society, teaching our children how to be empathetic is more important than ever.
Empathy and Childhood
Empathy has been linked to moral behavior. In general, humans are kinder when they can understand one another’s perspectives and emotions. As a child, empathy advances as they develop their cognitive skills. At ages 2 to 4, children start becoming aware of their own emotions and feelings. Then between 5 and 7, they start developing compassion and reading emotional cues from others. These are the foundation stages of empathy. For some children, it develops naturally, but it is not an innate ability that develops in all children. Parents can influence their children to develop empathy. If you encourage empathy, your child will be more empathetic.
What does empathy look like?
Empathy is a broad term that can be broken down into three distinct processes.
- Emotional sharing: When people experience unpleasant feelings because they saw or heard distress in another person.
- Empathic concern: A person’s motive or desire to care for others who are vulnerable or experiencing distress.
- Perspective-taking: The ability to put yourself in another person’s situation and imagine what they could be thinking or feeling.
All of these processes can be explored during early childhood. Here are some simple ways for developing empathy in children.
Ways to Teach Your Child to Be More Empathetic
Empathise with your child and show empathy towards others
You are your child’s biggest role model. They are not only watching your reactions to others, but they are learning from your reactions to them. Empathize not only with others but with your child as well. Be reflective of the emotions your child displays and validate how they are feeling. Show them you understand how they feel, that you are concerned about them and that you accept their feelings. Then go and do the same thing towards others. From the family dog to your spouse to your child’s favorite teddy bear, it is important to always model empathy.
Teach Children About Emotions
Expressing empathy is not always easy for children. One of the first steps to developing empathy is being able to manage your own emotions. Using games and play to teach emotional awareness can help your child in a variety of ways. It will increase their vocabulary while also assist them in being more mindful of complex feelings in themselves and others.
While learning how to manage their emotions, help them develop the ability to read emotional cues. Empathy requires children to identify how others feel, not only by verbal communication but also by emotional cues. A good game is “how do you feel.” Invite your child to show an emotional face and body language to a hypothetical situation.
It is also important to keep the line of communication open. Reassure your child that it is ok for them to experience positive and negative emotions. They should feel safe expressing all emotions to you. Encourage this by asking how they felt when they experienced a certain situation. When they experience empathy, reinforce this behavior by praising them. Every time your child shares an emotion with you, tell them how wonderful it is that they are sharing.
Help Children Discover What They Have In Common
Empathy tends to be stronger between people that have things in common. Encouraging inclusion, diversity, and kindness by helping your child learn what they have in common with others. This includes people from all walks of life. If your child likes to point out differences, encourage commonality by replying with something that highlights similarities rather than differences.
One of the most important things you can be is kind. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and compassion should be prioritized across all situations and to all things. This includes not only siblings and other people, but animals, and even their toys. Discourage judgments and stereotypes. Discuss how all things benefit from positive caring traits. Then talk about how to help those who are vulnerable or distressed.
Quality day care programs spell success for the future. Start your child on the right path and contact Little Angels Child Care Center. Our program prides itself on achieving the highest standards of care for young children. We provide developmentally appropriate activities for children in all groups. Group activities and individual exploration combine to make each child’s day fun and full of learning opportunities. We firmly believe that, with teacher facilitation and extension, children learn best through play.