Young children often appear to lack empathy although as human beings, it is natural for us to be aware of other people's feelings and showing concern towards them. This is a very important trait that we must all acquire. So it is very important for children to learn about empathy. Although they may not understand its importance at this young age, beginning to train them early will greatly benefit them in the later years.
Teaching Children About Empathy
You can teach children about empathy using different ways. Some ways that you can adopt to help your child master this skill are:
- Remember to shower your child with love and affection always. This bond can make her feel empathetic towards others.
- Help the child understand every feeling. When she hugs you, tell her how kind she is. You can also tell her how kind she was when she lent a toy to her playmate.
- Be a patient listener to your child and allow her to talk about her feelings. Tell her about your feelings as well such as how you felt sad when she hit you.
- Label each action of your child. If she hits her baby brothers, tell her that it was unkind on her part to do so. If she comforts her friend who fell off the swing, comment on how thoughtful she was and that was a good gesture.
- Point out instances of other instances of people showing empathy. This can be a person who helped you gather the oranges that slipped out of your bag.
- Tell the child that if she thinks some action would hurt her feelings, it will mostly hurt others also. This may help her to develop consideration for others.
- Encourage your child to share her toys with her playmates.
- Teach the child to be polite with others. Basic courtesy starts with saying "Please" when she wants something, "Thank you" when she gets something from others and "Sorry" when she does something that she should not have done.
- Respect your toddler's feelings. Before you give her younger sibling or playmate one of her toys, ask her permission to do so. Also tell her why you would like to do so.
- Do not shout at your child if she hits or bites others. Remain calm and tell her that you know she did such a thing because she was angry. Also tell her that it hurts the person she hit and makes you feel sad. Tell her to apologise for her actions.
- Assign small chores to your child that make her learn to be responsible and caring. This can be as simple as helping you to take the dinner plates to the dining table.
- Praise your child whenever she shows empathy towards others.
- As in most other cases, remember to set yourself as a role model for your child.
Remember that learning empathy is a trait that takes time to develop. Even adults occasionally have difficulty in being empathetic. So you must always be patient with your children when you help them to show empathy.