When it comes to raising kids with character, one of the most important things I want to teach my daughter is how to be empathetic towards others. I know, of course, that one of the best ways to do this is by example.
What are other ideas for how to teach empathy to kids?
Let’s take a look at a few of the easier ways.
Why does empathy matter?
Empathy is a strongly needed quality among all people.
It is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. With more empathy comes more compassion, lower crime rates, and more unity among everyone. Although empathy comes more naturally to certain people, it is something we should all strive for.
Most people think of this as a synonym for sympathy, but it is not. Sympathy implies feelings of pity or sorrow for the plight of another. People offer condolences at funerals because they are sorry that someone they care about is hurting.
They are showing their support.
Well, if sympathy is picking up a hurt friend, empathy is giving him the shoes off of your feet. Empathy is literally being able to see yourself in the same situation as another. It opens up an entirely new connection between you and someone else.
For instance, you might feel bad because someone has lost their dog, but an empathetic person realizes that it could be their dog. This feeling may cause them to go out and help look for the missing animal.
There are ways we can help our children to grow in this quality.
How to Teach Empathy to Your Kids: Tips for Toddlers to Teenagers
Be Empathetic Towards Your Child
If you wish for your child to become strong in the area of empathy, you need to model this behavior towards him (or her). Always be willing to see things from your child’s perspective, and try to identify with his feelings.
If your child feels hurt about something you said, see the situation from his perspective.
Apologize to him for your harsh or uncaring words, and mirror back in your words what he has told you. Help him understand that you see things from his point of view, as this is one of the best ways to show him what true empathy is all about.
Meet Their Emotional Needs
By paying attention to their emotions and helping them identify what they feel, you are teaching them about themselves. When they understand what it feels like to be angry, sad, fearful, loved and the like, they are more likely to recognize these feelings in others. A child who can identify a feeling is more likely to help another.
Be Empathetic Towards Others
If someone has done something that made you feel upset, stop and think instead of lashing out. Let your child see you showing empathy in action.
Think about the other person and what may have caused their reaction, words or attitude towards you. Verbalize it with your child so they can see the thought process behind being intentionally empathetic. This will teach them the process so that they too can begin to use it in their own thinking.
Teach Your Child to Care For the Plight of Others
Talk to your children about the struggles that others go through. Show your concern, and ask your child if they have any ideas about how you could care for and assist those individuals. Stop any statements and feelings that show a judgemental attitude towards those in need, whether those needs are financial, physical, emotional or other.
Explain how people can end up in various situations through factors that are beyond their control.
This helps your child to see their own privilege, and to understand that we should all show compassion towards every person we meet, no matter what situation they are in at the moment.
Find Ways to Give as a Family
A great way to show empathy in action is to volunteer.
Join forces with the rest of your family and put your energy to use by volunteering your time to those who need it the most. Serve meals together at a shelter, or put together care kits for the less fortunate. Become friends with those you serve, so that instead of seeing them as charity, your child is made aware that these are fellow humans with whom you have much in common.
Encourage Their Desire to Help
Many charities and organizations today have been born from the mind of a child. They desire to help someone using what they have at their disposal. And, you know what? It is always enough. As a parent, teach your children how to tap into available resources to reach their dream of assisting another.
Holding empathy towards others is an important characteristic for our children who will someday run society. It is one of the greatest lessons anyone can learn. Develop this characteristic in your child to make a future that is better for us all.