Figuring out how to teach children empathy will benefit them tremendously in everyday life.
What is Empathy?
Empathy means having the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Teaching children how to be empathetic has the power to change how they act now, as children, and later, as adults.
For example, empathy can lead to lowering crime rates, an increase in compassion, and generally spreading less hate toward others.
For some, showing empathy comes naturally, but it should be a goal, as parents, to teach children how to express, experience, and handle empathy.
Empathy, Compassion, or Sympathy?
People tend to confuse empathy with sympathy and compassion but there are big differences.
Empathy takes it a step further than sympathy. Sympathy means you recognize someone’s emotions and empathy means you feel that emotion, because you imagine yourself in their shoes.
The act of compassion is even one step ahead of empathy, being compassionate means you feel the need to act on another person's emotions so they can have help towards relief.
How to Teach Children Empathy
Now that we've defined what empathy is and what it is not, let's get to the heart of this post: teaching empathy to children.
Is this something only parents can do? I don't think so. However, I believe empathy is best learned at home, around the people children spend the most time with.
1. Show Empathy Towards Your Child
Children learn by example, so if you want your children to behave a certain way, it is important to act as a mirror.
If you hope for your children to become empathetic, it is crucial that you treat situations with them, with empathy. Always be open to see things from your child's perspective, and think of how they are feeling.
If your child seems upset, try getting to the root of the problem, making sure they feel heard and understood. If harsh words are used or they are treated poorly, always be sure to apologize.
2. Show Empathy Towards Others
Instead of being someone who lashes out at others when treated poorly, try to keep your cool, especially when your children are around. Letting your children see how you act when scenarios arise, will be a lesson in itself.
Additionally, think about how the other person feels before reacting. Maybe there was a valid reason behind why they used bitter words and a bad attitude.
Be verbal so that your child can see the process behind being empathetic. This will show them the steps they need to use, if a situation were to arise.
3. Teach Children How to Be Problem-Solvers
Learning how to teach children to be empathic goes even further by teaching them how to take their empathy and act on it is compassion.
Feeling compassion towards one another means trying to eliminate their suffering and change their situation.
Tips on teaching children to be problem-solvers could be asking your child(ren) about a scenario and following that with, “How could you change that?” or “What would you do?” There isn’t a perfect answer, as long as the purpose is to make sure the other person feels better.
4. Be a Giving Family
Volunteering is a simple and an easy way to show children empathy towards others.
Whether it's a meal at a shelter, or maybe they want to donate their toys or clothes to children in need.
Giving to others can be simple acts of kindness or great acts of Philanthropy. Anything that shows children how to be giving, loving, and caring is perfect!
Raising children isn’t an easy job, and definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all. However, making sure you teach kids empathy towards others will benefit them greatly. Be an open book with your little ones, to an extent, of course. Lead by example, they are always watching!
This post may contain affiliate links and/or promotional products, all opinions expressed are that of But First, Joy only. Read my full disclosure.