How to Help Your Child Develop Empathy and 10 Ways to Teach Empathy, and Feelings
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Empathy is the ability to understand and respect people’s attitudes and opinions. The cornerstone of a child’s ability to be kind and compassionate is empathy. This important feeling begins to bloom at the very beginning of life. According to experts, the reason why children are more liked by their peers and are more successful in social circles is that they can see things from someone else’s perspective.
What is Empathy with People?
In order to empathize, you must first put aside your own opinion, listen to the person in front of you, and feel the emotions that arise in them. For example, your friend shared a sad event that happened to you. Even if you have not experienced such an event before, when you understand what he feels and understand the emotions he is experiencing, you will have empathy. People who can establish this sensitivity add beauty to their own life and surroundings. Common features of these people are:
- People who can empathize have the right communication power.
- They can overcome the problems that may arise in their social environment.
- They are patient and emotionally developed people.
- People who can empathize also use their social intelligence.
- They are solution-oriented thinkers in every situation they encounter.
- Empathetic people make positive friendships.
- These people have high listening and connection skills.
- They give importance to social values, kindness, and doing good deeds.
Why Should We Develop Children's Empathy?
It is very important for children to develop empathy skills, establish good relations with their friends, be kind and attentive to other people around them and understand them. According to studies, it is said that children with high empathy are more sociable and kind, and also better understand the reasons for other people’s behaviors. Children who have this feeling exhibit a more successful personality in motivating and leading their peers and are open to innovations. That’s why, as parents, there is great benefit in helping children develop empathy.
How Should We Help Children Develop Empathy?
Having a Moral Identity is Important: The development of helpful and generous behaviors of children are important emotions in their empathy. When they have these moral feelings, they value them, caring about how others think.
- Stories and Movies Strengthen Empathy: Books and movies are the right tools for the development of children’s empathy skills. Children can be inspired by characters in a book or movie and become sensitive to how others feel.
- Limiting Social Media Use: The intense use of the Internet by children can negatively affect them physically, socially, and psychologically. In particular, the time spent on social media distracts from the real social environment and skills, while creating difficulties in establishing empathy. As parents, it is necessary to help children in the limited and conscious use of social media. In addition, spending quality time in the family and attention to children is also very important.
- Parents to set an example for their children: Parents are role models for their children. Your actions and behavior towards others have a great influence on them. The communication you establish with people, the kindness and compassion you show, and the kindnesses you do will be very helpful in developing empathy for your child.
- Listening to Children: Listening to children, understanding, and giving them the opportunity to express themselves is a very important detail. E.g; When your child feels angry and shows it by shouting or crying, approach him/her with a patient and determined attitude without getting angry or angry. First of all, give him space to calm down without getting upset. When she has calmed down, politely ask her why she is angry and let her explain herself. When he tells you about his problem, encourage him to empathize and consider alternatives. In this way, your child will both calm down and relax and will be able to solve the event in his mind with empathy.
- Learning to Understand Emotions: As parents, you need to pay attention to the words and sentences you use when telling your child about other people’s attitudes and behaviors. The words and phrases your child hears from you will help them empathize with others.
- The Importance of Drama Lessons: According to the researches, drama lessons can help children to communicate correctly with others and to understand them better. This experience that children will have while playing the given characters in a game will be of great benefit in developing empathy.
- Encouraging to Do Good: Collaborating with people, being friendly, and helping not only financially but also spiritually is a favor. People who do good feel happy and have strong empathy skills. Parents need to instill in the child that by doing good, he will gain empathy and have a happy life.
- Activities to Support Empathy at School: Teachers’ preparation of activities related to values in schools affects children positively. Activities related to values such as tolerance, cooperation, kindness, compassion, and empathy can help students improve their empathy by increasing love and respect among students.
- Self-Control: According to experts, it is not a good way for parents to try to keep their children happy all the time. In such a situation, children cannot learn to deal with their own emotions. So let them experience anger, anger, tension, frustration, fear, or sadness as they grow. In this way, they will learn to control themselves.
- Learning to Solve the Conflict Problem: When children experience a negative situation among themselves, it should be clearly stated that their behavior is not appropriate on either side. The child exhibiting the negative behavior should be able to empathize and understand the situation towards the other. It is very important for parents to make them aware of this situation by explaining the relationship between the feelings of these two children. After this awareness is gained, children will be able to think more positively, sensitively, and alternatively.
- Supporting Children: As parents, it is very important that you appreciate, encourage, and be present for your child’s positive behavior towards others. When your child feels that you understand him and that you are with him, it will be easier for him to empathize with others. Parents who want to raise sensitive children, first of all, should set an example for them. Because children learn and imitate these behaviors by seeing them from their parents.
Empathy starts with listening to the other person and then continues with understanding. Trying to understand what the person is feeling and supporting him is the most important way to develop empathy. Because this feeling is an ability to fully respect. This skill is developed in children by their parents and through socialization. As parents, you first need to show them empathy. Listen to your child, pay attention to their feelings and thoughts, and help them understand what empathy is.
10 Ways to Teach Your Child Empathy, and Feelings
- Talk about and name feelings
Before our children can recognize emotions in other people, they need to understand their own. Help your child validate and name all of their feelings.
- Younger children: Happy, sad, angry, scared.
- Older children: Frustrated, disappointed, bored, silly, embarrassed.
Children need to learn to self-regulate and trust that they can feel and handle any emotion they experience. Avoid saying to your child, “Don’t be sad. It’s no big deal; you shouldn’t be angry about this.” Let children feel their feelings.
- Point out other people’s behavior and feelings
Especially for young children, it’s helpful to point out and label how others are feeling. For example:
- “Max is feeling sad because you took his book from him. Please hand it back and wait until he’s finished.”
- “Your sister is very tired and is having a hard time staying calm. Maybe a big brother hug would help.”
- Point out when someone shows (or doesn’t show) empathy
- “You were sad after your nap, and your brother brought you your lovey to make you feel better.”
- “That friend over there fell down and no one near her asked if she was okay.”
- Talk to your child about your feelings.
Empathize with them – Show your child that adults have emotions too, and learning how to handle them is part of life. For example,
- “I feel sad when you hit me. I’d like you to use your words to tell me what you want.”
- “It looked like you were frustrated when you couldn’t play with that toy. I understand. I feel frustrated too when I have to wait for my turn.”
- Model empathy
Children are astute observers and will notice how you treat others.
- Children learn empathy by watching your every move. As you treat others with respect and compassion, your child will do the same.
- Help your child reframe a situation to practice understanding how feelings impact behavior.
- “You said she is mean. Do you think she might be tired or hungry? How do you feel when you are tired and hungry?”
- Use empathetic language
Language choice is important. Be mindful of labeling and describing others in a way that is shaming and judgmental when you talk to your child. For example:
- “She’s having a hard time sharing her toys today” is more empathetic than “She’s being selfish.”
- “Excluding friends from a conversation hurts their feelings” is more helpful than “That person is being mean.”
- Teach nonverbal cues
Observe other people’s mannerisms and facial expressions, and talk about how they might be feeling. For example:
- “That little boy is sitting on the swing and dragging his feet. How do you think he is feeling?”
- Playing a game where you guess how someone is feeling and explaining your thinking helps strengthen your child’s ability to pick up on nonverbal signs and infer feelings and thoughts.
- Use books and media (TV shows) to practice talking about empathy
Simply pausing to ask your child how they think a character is feeling or behaving is powerful.
- Provide opportunities for children to practice empathy and their worldview
Involving children in community engagement (to care for different kinds of people who face different challenges) teaches children the value of compassion. Visiting homebound elders or volunteering at a food bank can expand your child’s worldview. Be sure to check your local resources for such opportunities (usually appropriate after age 4).
10. Help children identify similarities between people
Studies suggest that we feel more empathy for people we sense are familiar or similar to us. Help your child see the commonalities between themselves and others, especially others who face challenges or tragedy, and they will be more likely to act with empathy.
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