A number of studies and history have shown us that the development of empathy during childhood plays a huge part in how people develop and who they will become as adults. So, it’s important, as a parent, to understand that empathy develops in children. This way, parents can understand how to better cultivate this essential emotion for healthy emotional development. To help parents teach and instill empathy in children, we’ve come up with three useful tips.
Before we dive into what parents can do to help instill empathy in children, we have to first understand what empathy is. And, not only understand what it is but why it’s important that our children use it. Empathy means to not only be able to understand how others are feeling but to be able to share the feelings of others too. It’s important for children to be able to express empathy, as studies have proven that it’s linked to the ability to create and maintain healthy relationships, career success, conflict resolution, and can even prevent bullying.
When parents actively practice empathy with their own children, their children are more likely to form strong emotional bonds with their parents. As a result, they’re likely to want to act as their parents do. So, if parents are constantly trying to understand how their children are feeling and offer support and solutions according to these emotions, children are more likely to do the same for those around them. Practicing empathy on your child can include a number of things like attempting to understand specific personality traits, being active in their life, and encouraging the child to take part in activities they enjoy.
Along with using empathy on your child, it’s vital to utilize empathy with those around you. This is because, while we may not know it, children are always watching and learning from what we do. So, if you don’t show empathy towards an employee of, say your local post office, how will your son or daughter know to act empathetic in the same situations? Part of showcasing empathy as an adult is to identify your own empathy issues; whether that be how you’re not showing empathy towards others or your own children.
To allow children to develop empathy that showcases understanding for others’ feelings, they should understand that the feelings of others are also important. To encourage this mindset, parents can teach their children that their happiness is no more important than the person standing beside them. While your child’s happiness is certainly vital, it’s also important that your child is kind, loving, and caring too. So, remember to remind your child that the feelings of others should not be overlooked because they are valid just as much as their own.
It’s easy to showcase empathy to those we love. We want our family members and loved ones to be happy, so it hurts us when they aren’t. But, when it comes to people we don’t know or share difference with, showcasing empathy can be more of a challenge. For this reason, it’s a good idea to encourage empathy in children outside of just family and friends. To do this, try starting conversations about people seen on television, in books, or on the news. Talk about how the differences in people don’t mean that they experience different feelings. Finally, talk about people close by who may be at risk for not being understood. And, ask your child if they can think of any ways these individuals may be helped.
Here at Ivy Prep Early Learning Academy, we understand the importance of healthy emotional development in children, including the development of empathy.