Empathy is an important emotion one must develop, especially for children. It is an emotion that helps build connections and encourage helping behaviors. For kids, it helps them make friends and regulate emotions, and prevent bullying. The lack of it greatly affects one’s personality and this is why it is crucial to help develop empathy in children.
What is empathy?
Empathy is the “ability to understand and share the feelings of others.” Most parents perceive empathy in children as a good thing but some might be confused about what it means physiologically.
Empathy is the ability to imagine oneself in another’s position, the ability to put oneself in another person’s shoes and think of what it’s like to experience life from another’s perspective.
Naturally, young children are selfish. In early life stages, kids only think about themselves and their needs and have yet to understand and consider the feelings of others. As they grow older, their sense of empathy is developed through the help of parents, teachers, and friends.
According to Psychology Today, empathy in children has the following characteristics:
- Know that other people have different feelings and perspectives than his own
- Can recognize and name his feelings as well as the feelings of others
- Can regulate his own emotions
- Can imagine himself in other’s shoes and what it might feel
- Knows what to do and how to respond to help someone feel better
If you, a parent, noticed that your child lacks empathy, remember that it is a complex ability that develops in time and can be taught.
Why empathy in children is important?
Empathy is a life skill that your children need to succeed in life. When you teach your child to understand others’ feelings, let them understand that their actions can greatly impact others, and ask them to imagine themselves in another person’s shoes, you are setting them up for life.
Here are the benefits of helping your children develop a sense of empathy:
- Helps them to build more secure and stronger relationships with their peers and educators, encouraging them to better learning
- Strengthens their tolerance and acceptance of others
- Promotes good mental health
- Helps them socialize better and reduce the risks of bullying
All of these good characteristics are traits that your children will bring into their adult life. When your kid grows up to be empathetic, they’ll have:
- Greater success, both personally and career-wise
- Increased levels of happiness
- Can relate and understand more, especially with co-workers and clients
- Lower levels of stress
These are just a few of the benefits and your child will reap more as they grow to be more empathetic to others.
How to Help Develop Empathy in Children: 3 Ways Parents Can Help
If you want your children to have positive and smooth-sailing relationships with others, help them hone their sense of empathy. This reduces conflicts and misunderstandings and helps promotes helping behavior and most important of all, kindness.
No one is born empathetic and similar to other life skills, empathy can be taught and developed over time.
Here are ways on how parents can help develop empathy in children.
Empathize with your child
One of the most effective ways for empathy to develop in children is by parents empathizing with the child. Parents should be wonderful role models and kids take this seriously. When we show empathy for others, our kids develop trust and the want to possess these values as well. This is the start.
Empathy can take on many forms and parents have multiple ways of doing this, such as catering to the physical and emotional needs of the kid, understanding and respecting their distinct personalities, and being genuinely interested in their lives.
There are more obvious and everyday acts you can do as well. One is to nicely treat servers in restaurants or gently smile at the mail carrier.
Prioritize caring for others
Children have a deep attachment to their parents so it is important to have children understand that caring for others comes first and that it is as important as one’s happiness.
The challenge is parents want to raise good and caring children but find it hard to reinforce this mindset. One thing parents can do is to remind them daily.
“The most important thing for mom is that you’ll grow up kind and happy.”
Establishing a daily message like this would remind him in tough times that you’ve always wished for him to be kind.
Another important thing to teach a child is helping them understand that the world does not revolve around them. As parents, the happiness of our child is of topmost priority and sometimes children grow up thinking that the whole world and everyone are at their disposal.
Parents, let’s teach our children that the concerns of others are more important than their happiness.
Provide opportunities for practice
As mentioned, empathy is taught and developed over time. With the right guidance, empathy will come naturally.
One way to do this is by having family meetings, especially when there are challenges or conflicts on their side. Give your children a voice and encourage them to carefully listen to the views and perspectives of others.