How to Teach Empathy to Your ChildFebruary 2nd, 2021
Can you teach empathy to young children? Yes! In fact, empathy is one of the most important lessons you can teach your little ones because the ability to empathize is a necessary life skill that a child carries with them well into adulthood. To learn how to teach empathy to your child, here’s a quick guide for you.
Empathy in early childhood
The ability to feel for others doesn’t come naturally to children. It needs to be continuously worked on. Babies are ego-centric. They are more inclined to think mostly about themselves and their needs. The World Health Organization recognizes empathy as one of the most important life skills across all cultures.
Developing empathy early on is hugely beneficial to a child’s development. Being able to feel empathy helps build stronger relations with their peers. These qualities do not just improve a child’s social and mental well-being today but also in the long run. Being understanding, tolerant, and accepting are all valuable traits one needs to build a happy and successful life.
Building an understanding of how others feel and how their actions can impact others takes time and experience. To help your child become a well-rounded, self-aware individual, consider teaching these lessons at home.
Empathize with your kid
To learn about empathy, children must also know how it feels like to be consoled and empathized with. One of the first things a parent should do when teaching empathy is to display empathy in their household.
For example, ask them, “Are you scared? What are you scared of? Everything’s going to be okay because I am by your side.” Showing your concern towards them and consoling them will teach them being there for others can make all the difference.
Use I message to communicate feelings
This way of communicating is an effective way to help kids understand how you feel about their actions. This helps develop their self-awareness as they are being held accountable for their actions.
Here’s a quick example, if your child takes one of your belongings without telling you. Tell them, “I don’t like it when you take my things without asking for permission.” By expressing your emotions, they’ll start to understand that their actions can affect others.
Pretend Play Activities
A great way to teach empathy is through playing pretend with your child. This is a fun and engaging way to teach your kids about important life concepts. For example, having your child take part in a role as a caregiver can help them understand the concept of caring for others a whole lot better.
You can teach your child how to be more concerned with how others are feeling by playing doctor. Turn their stuffed toys into patients and ask your child: “How do you think Mr. Bear feels? What do we tell him to make him feel better?” Additionally, playing empathy games like pretend play also helps kids further develop their imagination and problem-solving skills.
Validate their emotions
Whenever your li’l one is upset or angry, it’s in a parent’s instinct to make those negative feelings go away. Protect them from any harm. Although it’s hard, you must teach your child how to cope with such difficult emotions.
Here’s an example, if your child is upset about not being able to have ice cream today, help them by saying, “I understand that you’re upset right now. And, it’s okay. Once you’re done being mad, let’s go watch a movie.” This lesson can help kids learn how to empathize with others who also go through difficult emotions.
Lead by example
Wondering how to explain empathy to a child? Become their role model. How your child acts are a reflection of the people around them. To teach your child how to become an empathetic individual, you need to become their role model. When you have strong relationships and show kindness and care for others, your child will quickly learn from your example.
Empathy takes time and patience
Learning how to become a caring and empathetic individual takes time and is a continuous learning process. By teaching these simple but precious lessons at home, you’re helping your child build a solid foundation to becoming an emotionally well-rounded person. So, encourage your little ones to carry out little acts of kindness today to carry out bigger acts of kindness tomorrow.