30 Mar How Do You Cultivate Empathy In Children?
Children have a natural propensity to empathy, but they can lose it over time. This is why it is important to cultivate empathy in children.
This can be done by basically giving them lessons in empathy, along with activities that they will find enjoyable, as well as engaging.
This will then help children benefit from being able to relate to other people. A UC Berkley paper says as much when it discussed the reasons for teaching children empathy.
What Empathy Means for Children
In essence, empathy simply means that children can put themselves in the shoes of other people. However, unlike with adults, it needs to be considerably more visual.
For example, while you might be able to feel the pain of starving children in other places, your child would be able to relate to them more easily if he was there in person.
The same goes for everyday empathy reactions where your child is able to sense your distress, as well as that of other people, especially children.
It would be easier to feel the hurt of crying children if they are face-to-face. On that note, it is still possible to expand this to include more subjective or vague concepts and ideas.
How to Cultivate Empathy in Children
The question of how you can cultivate empathy in children is actually a matter of understanding empathy yourself.
A lot of the methods available hinge on the parent’s ability to adequately understand their children and their emotions so that they can help them do the same.
Try these practical tips to help your kids develop empathy and understand that others have different thoughts and feelings than they do.
Spend Time with Him
One of the very best ways to help your child develop his sense of empathy is to spend as much time with him as possible while growing up.
This allows him to be constantly exposed to different emotions on your face, as well as provides him with more opportunities to be around other people.
The closer the bond between you and your child becomes, the stronger his sense of empathy becomes.
Of course, this comes with the caveat that you will also make sure to temper all of that attention with discipline instead of coddling.
Empathy requires your child to actually be exposed to people so that he can see different expressions, skin colors, gestures, and more.
A huge part of empathy is about understanding, after all, and context. The more context and opportunities to gain context you provide, the easier it becomes for him to sympathize.
This is why toddlers would often end up crying if another toddler in front of them cries even if they did not experience the same reasons for crying.
Best Friend Please
A best friend would certainly provide your child with one of the best reasons to care about another person.
It is about having a confidant and having someone who cares about your child and who your child cares about more than perhaps anyone else.
Of course, it is also important to allow your child to make a best friend naturally.
You must never force him to like other children if he does not want to.
Charity is basically a method of sharing one’s blessings with those less fortunate and should be done with a measure of empathy.
Having your child participate will teach him three very important lessons. One is the rewarding feeling that he can get from doing something for others.
Two is that he has a lot to be thankful for. The third is that he can feel be exposed to the various expressions in the eyes and faces of those who receive charity.
Never Repress Selfishness
Finally, it is never a good idea to force your child to completely repress the emotion that is the opposite of empathy; selfishness.
Instead of simply telling your child to never be selfish, convince him. Change his mind by highlighting the benefits of empathy and charity, and the downsides of selfishness.
You can do this via stories, picture books, movies, TV shows, and even online videos. You can even do role playing and puppet shows if you want.
The important point is that you never allow your child to feel guilty about being selfish because this will only cause him to hold on to such an emotion.
Why Cultivate Empathy in Children?
Cultivating empathy in children is an important gateway to social and emotional growth in children.
Here are some reasons why you need to nurture and cultivate empathy in your kids:
1.Building Stronger Bonds
Whether it is with friends, family, or mentors, empathy simply leads to stronger bonds.
This is because of how empathy basically allows your child to react better to plights, troubling thoughts, and emotional turmoil.
2. Better Leadership Skills
Empathy is a major advantage for leaders because it allows them to understand what drives or demotivates followers.
Developing your child’s empathy is basically equipping him to become a reliable figure of authority that will be respected and praised.
3. Healthier relationships
When your child is better able to interact with those he loves or interacts, it leads to healthier, more productive relationships.
He is better able to grasp personality differences that might lead to unintended slights, offenses, or grudges.
4. More Meaningful Interactions
Those who have underdeveloped empathies will find deeper conversations more difficult to hold.
This is because they won’t really have much of an interest to want to hold that conversation, in the first place.
Train your child to become more empathic and to have more meaningful discussions.
5. Smoother Social Skills
If your child can easily relate to people, it makes it easier for him to become more likeable.
Seeing when someone becomes uncomfortable and even better, to know why they are uncomfortable, will help in making your child appear more endearing to people.
Developing empathy takes time and practice to develop.
We can’t expect our kids to to master this skill nor can we expect them to feel empathy when they cannot regulate their emotions yet.
What we can do is to keep an open communication and to hone our abilities to model empathy in our daily lives.
Related: Raising Emotionally Intelligent Kids