Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. Teaching empathy to kids is an important life skill that will lead to a happy life.
Empathy allows children to anticipate how someone would react to something they may do. They will be more willing to share if they are able to understand how it would make the other child feel if they didn’t. It also helps children to understand possible motives behind other people’s behavior and it encourages pro-social behavior which is defined by caring for someone else and acting in a way that benefits them. For instance, a child hugging a friend who got hurt would be an example of pro-social behavior.
Empathy is the basis for compassion. Empathy combined with compassion will lead to a child who is filled with love and generosity.
5 Tips for Teaching Your Child Empathy
1-Model the behavior you wish to encourage
Be kind, compassionate, and generous in your dealing with them and with others around you. When they are misbehaving or having a tantrum, acknowledging their feelings can help them learn to express their feelings and it can also model empathetic behavior. Saying, “I see you are mad that that your brother took that toy, I know that is hard.” There is no greater substitution when teaching our children lessons than by us modeling the behavior we wish to see.
2-Label their feelings as often as possible
They will not be able to understand other people’s feelings, if they are not capable of understanding their own. This will also help with unwanted behaviors such as acting out which can stem from not adequately being able express their feelings. Give their feelings words and talk about your feelings often. Use the above suggestions of labeling their feelings when you can see they are angry, sad, etc. This will help them recognize what it is exactly that they are feeling and in turn it will help them learn to recognize when someone else may be feeling the same way.
3-Encourage role playing-
By taking on roles in pretend play they are able to explore scenarios in which they are able to look at things from another person’s point of view and that they wouldn’t be able to do in their normal everyday life. We often play with my daughter’s Little People and act out different scenarios and in doing so explore different emotions and how we can show can show empathy when someone is in need.
4-Take advantage of all the opportunities to help the child to understand another person’s feelings-
This could be done as a result of the child’s behavior, say if they steal a toy away from another child. Label the way the other child might be feeling and relate it back to a time when your child felt the same way. Another opportunity to teach about feelings would be to use TV programs or books that you enjoy together. Take the time to label the feelings of the characters and why they might feel that particular way. You may also use the opportunity to brainstorm suggestions on how one might make the particular person feel better such as giving a hug to someone who is sad or playing with a child that may be feeling left out.
5-Give them plenty of positive reinforcement when they model compassionate behavior-
Be sure to point out the satisfaction and warm feelings that comes from helping others, so that satisfaction comes from within themselves and not based on others praise.
Here are 5 Books to help teach kids empathy-
For even more ideas on raising empathetic, compassionate, and generous children check out these wonderful posts-