According to Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project, “Empathy is at the heart of what it means to be human. It’s a foundation for acting ethically, for good relationships of many kinds, for loving well, and for professional success.”
Knowing that, it’s clear that raising understanding and empathetic children is incredibly important.
How to Get Started
Teaching your child empathy starts with setting a good example in your everyday life.
When your child is struggling, show them empathy and grace. We know this can be incredibly difficult when your child is throwing a temper tantrum or testing your patience.
In those moments, remember to take a breath, calm yourself, and control your own emotions.
Model the behavior you want your child to learn—that’s what they’ll show to others out in the world.
Volunteer in the Community
Take your child to volunteer in the community. Show your child that it is the right thing to help others in need.
This teaches them to be empathetic by learning to understand the struggles of those in need. Encourage your child to talk to those they are helping, ask questions, and share their stories.
While the holidays are a great time to do this, look for opportunities year-round for you and your child to volunteer at. Shelters, food banks, animal shelters, and soup kitchens are good options to consider.
The Homeless Shelter Directory has listings on community outreach programs that may be in need of volunteers. Learn more about their Lakeland, Florida listings.
Consider a Family Pet
Get your child a pet they will be responsible for. When they are responsible for another living thing they learn to have an understanding of others’ needs.
Although they can be a lot of work, especially for the parents, a loving pet can teach your child empathy towards all living things and even provide teach lessons of unconditional love.
Talk About Emotions
Teach your child about emotions and talk about them often. Ask questions like, “How are you feeling?”
Label the emotions they are experiencing with their proper names, and accept that all emotions, even negative ones, are valid and normal.
Go a step further and help them process and work through those emotions. It’s easy for excited children to be inconsiderate of others’ emotions, while an angry child may say or do things that hurt those around them.
The more you talk to your child about their feelings and yours, the more ways they’ll learn to process those feelings constructively.
When your child understands emotions they can have an easier time connecting to the emotional needs of others in their lives.
Use Story Time
When reading with your child, take time to stop and talk about the emotions the characters in the book are experiencing.
“Is Jack feeling mad or sad about his beans?”
“Why is the baby crying?”
This is a great way to help your child make emotional connections about what others are experiencing.
Take it a step further and talk to your child about ways they could help the characters if they were in the book.