Being empathetic is one of the key emotive features that make you a human. Empathy is the foundation for good relationships and for success. By teaching your child to be empathetic, he/she will be able to compassionately think about others’ perspectives. Empathy is all about “perspective taking” and being “compassionate”.
Can you teach your child to be more empathetic?
Yes, you can. This is a skill that can be learned.
Try out these 3 practical ways to help your child develop empathy and understand the importance of others’ feelings and emotions.
With empathy being a complex skill, it is important to know the end result of instilling empathy in your child. Being able to empathise with another person means that your child will:
- Understand that he/she is a separate entity, a separate individual.
- Understand that other people will have different thoughts, feelings and emotions.
- Recognise and understand common feelings and emotions that they or others experience.
- Understand how to respond to a difficult situation with compassion and emotion.
1. Understand their timelines
The first thing to do before beginning to practice empathy with your child is to understand your child’s timelines. There is a lot of research that shows a child develops emotional and empathy skills at a very young age. So, at 6 months, a baby starts “social referencing. This means a baby will look at a parent and hope for a reaction from their parent. Research by “Zero to Three” have amazing examples of social referencing.Click here to read!
Whereas at 18 to 24 months, toddlers begin to develop a theoretical mind and this is when a toddler realises that they have thoughts of their own. So understanding that there is development at each milestone is very important as parents. You as a parent need to also understand how your behaviour, emotions or empathetic nature may affect your baby from a young age.
Interesting? There are plenty of online blogs and paperback books that effectively explain the importance of social referencing and the importance of both parents maintaining a peaceful and harmonious environment at home.
Here are a few books that you should consider buying:
2. Get to know your child and start empathising with them
Children learn how to be empathetic mainly when they are watching you, you need to become a role model for your child. When you empathise with you child, you are telling them that you trust them, this will allow him/her to form a deep attachment with you. All of your actions, inside and outside of your home play an important part in your child’s emotional development. For example, your child will register empathy towards people outside of your family if you treat these people in an ethically empathetic way.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Talk to your child, get to know them: Parenting is not only about setting your children daily tasks to do but it is also about engaging in meaningful conversations with them. Ask them questions. Ask them if they have had an interesting day or if there is a friend they trust or respect. Get to know how your child feels about certain relationships.
- Show your empathetic nature to others: consider saying hello to your neighbours or consider sharing a few words of kindness to the waiter who served your lunch today. These are things your child will pick up.
- Create a self-care environment at home: find time in doing something for yourselves as parents. Read a book, meditate or listen to calming music. Self-care and self-reflection avoids you being overwhelmed by stress. The last thing you want is for your child to see how stressed you are.
3. Start providing opportunities for your child to practice empathy
Did you know that children are born with an empathetic nature? It is your duty as parents to find this empathetic nature and nurture it throughout their lives. Empathy needs to be practiced and you can do this by having family meetings and discussions and talk about conflicts and come up with solutions, discuss why empathy is important and why not having any empathy may be a problem, talk about problems your child may be experiencing. There are so many things you can do to help your child grow into becoming an empathetic person.
Banana Moon Day Nursery in Chiswick considers outdoor & indoor play to be an essential part of children’s learning and development, both emotional and physical. We believe that children need lots of variety of play and learning environments as part of their emotional and physical development. Playing and having the room to run around outside will not only improve their physical health, but will also stimulate their minds as they discover outdoor activities and experience the different seasons.