Teaching Empathy by Example: How Parents Can Be There for Kids

If your child learns to be empathetic to the extent they’re capable of for their age, and they continue to develop this skill, then you’re setting them up with a fundamental skill necessary for success in so many aspects of life.

Many people have a life-long struggle in developing and maintaining healthy relationships with others. This is because they struggle to understand how other people feel.

Teaching empathy to a child from a young age can go a long way to equipping them with essential life skills and helping them develop rewarding and meaningful relationships with others, that includes you!

A major point here is that if you lack empathy or unaware of how to develop this quality in your child, you could unintentionally teach your child to show a lack of feeling. That is the last thing you want, so make a determined start by reading this article.

Empathy – What Is It?

Empathy is a complex set of emotional reactions in response to the emotions of another person. It involves being sensitive to the feelings of others and being affected by those feelings. It has been said that empathy is someone else’s feelings in your heart.

Empathy is more than sensing or reacting to the feelings of others. It’s a quality that enables a person to imagine a different perspective and consider what emotions might be involved with that perspective. Someone who can do this could be described as emotionally intelligent.

Be The Person You Want Your Child to Be

Your child’s mind is like a CCTV monitoring what you say and do. As your child matures, their attention focuses on how you interact and react to others. This means that if you want to help your child in learning empathy, then you will need to be their role model.

Being empathetic towards your partner, and towards other children in the family is the best foundation for helping your child to develop this quality themselves. Learning to be empathetic is not limited to children, adults continue to learn and develop this quality throughout their life.

Connecting Actions and Feelings

When children are very young they do not understand the connection between their actions and the emotional reactions of others.

Like all children, when your child does something they shouldn’t or they hurt a sibling or friend, instead of simply making them say sorry it’s good to reason with them on how that action has emotionally hurt the other person.

Using questions like ‘how would you feel if…?’ Or, ‘how would you like it if they did that to you?’ You can reason with them on when bad things happened to them, how did they feel then, to show them how others are feeling now in response to their behavior.

Teach Them to Value Others

An important aspect of empathy is learning to respect others who are different from us in some way. Not only that but to value the differences of others. This involves teaching your child to respect other nationalities, religions, and cultures.

Closer to home, it’s helpful to teach your child that everyone has different abilities and that somethings are challenging for everyone. For example, they may join some after school activity like dancing. You can prepare for dance class together and help them to see that everyone will feel nervous, to begin with.

Help them to see how those feelings can change with preparation and also how that preparation will affect the instructor.

Communicate Freely

Communication is the window to your child’s mind and heart. Keep that window open by taking the time to have quality interactions with your child. Ask them about events, conflicts, and problems they’re experiencing at school.

Challenge them through reasoning on how others may feel or think. Help to always consider the perspective of the other person and to use that insight to further affect their own feelings and emotions. This takes time and there are no shortcuts.

Create Opportunities to Display Empathy

Consider creating opportunities for your child to show empathy. If there is a big family decision to make, perhaps moving home, or some other matter that needs to be resolved in the family you could arrange for a family meeting.

This is an excellent opportunity to be an example yourself but also to see how your child is progressing in being able to relate to others and accept different viewpoints as equally valid as their own.

Positively Reinforce Empathetic Behavior

We all thrive on commendation, which is especially true of children. When you observe positive behaviors that reflect their progress in being an empathetic person, then make sure you acknowledge that with them.

You can praise them for their actions as well as reward them in other ways. Perhaps giving them a special treat or taking them somewhere they love to go. The important thing is that they know that you notice and appreciate it when they show empathy.

Ready to Start Teaching Empathy

In this article, you have read about teaching empathy to your child. They will imitate the kind of person that you are. Follow the advice in this article and you and your child will be more empathetic with each other and others.

Empathy in the family will contribute to a more peaceful and happy home life. Don’t stop reading there, you can read more excellent advice for parents that fit with your needs on the rest of our site.