As parents, we always want what’s best for our children. We hope to instill in them a sense of empathy and compassion so that they can grow up to be caring, considerate adults. But how do we go about doing that? It isn’t always easy to teach our kids about empathy, especially when sometimes it feels like we ourselves are still learning. Thankfully, there are some things we can do to help encourage empathy in our children and set them on the path to becoming compassionate people.
Children can get very busy in their own world, and most of the time they don’t mean to be “selfish”. They are just too preoccupied with the ideas going through their minds that they “forget” that their behaviours might affect others.
Here are 3 simple ways to teach your child empathy.
1. Empathise with your child and model empathy for others.
Children learn empathy both from watching us and from experiencing our empathy for them. When we empathise with our children, they develop trusting, secure attachments with us.
Empathising with our children takes many forms. This includes, tuning in to their physical and emotional needs, understanding and respecting their individual personalities, taking a genuine interest in their lives, and guiding them toward activities that reflect an understanding of the kind of people they are and the things they enjoy.
Children also learn empathy by watching those we notice and appreciate. They’ll notice if we treat a server in a restaurant or the postman with respect or if we welcome a new family to the school.
2. Make caring for others a priority.
If children are to value others’ perspectives and show compassion for them, it’s very important that they hear from their parents that caring about others is a top priority and that it is just as important as their own happiness.
3. Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively.
Often when children don’t express empathy, it’s not because they don’t have it. It’s because some feeling or image is blocking their empathy. Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed, for example, by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.
Helping children manage these negative feelings is often what “releases” their empathy.
Empathy is a critical skill for both children and adults to have. It allows us to understand and share the feelings of others. Which can lead to more meaningful relationships and better communication. Teaching your child empathy is not difficult, but it does require time and effort. We hope that by sharing these three simple ways to help foster empathy in your child, you will be able to start building this important life skill. If you would like additional resources or ideas on how to teach your child empathy, please don’t hesitate to download our free printable below.