If you’re like most parents you want your children to be successful and happy. But have you thought about the importance of being kind? While it’s true some people seem naturally inclined to be caring, anyone is capable of empathy, ANYONE. Especially if they are encouraged from an early age. Which is why teaching children empathy is so important.

In the age of social media, real human connection and interaction matter more than ever. Empathy can be the glue that binds us and creates deep meaningful relationships throughout our lifetimes; including marriage, friendships, and even professional networks. That’s why as parents, it makes sense for us to be teaching children empathy at every developmental stage, so we can help our kids become compassionate human beings.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes

While empathy is associated with compassion, it’s more complex than just relating to another’s experience or emotion. Richard Weissbourd and Stephanie Jones, who are associated with the Making Caring Common project through the Harvard Graduate School of Education, explain that “empathy is at the heart of what it means to be human.” The capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing allows for a deeper connection, one that draws you out of your comfort zone to reach out and actively help another in need.

Society has become more about the individual and less about community and support. That shift in focus may lead to a culture of intolerance unless we help the next generation do better. Parents, know that you have the power to instill the values of caring and kindness your children. Emotional intelligence can be learned. So why not be the teacher your child needs?

Teaching Children Empathy

You have the power to influence and shape your children’s emotional awareness. When you tailor your approach for your child’s age and understanding level, you can promote empathy at every developmental stage. Teaching children empathy doesn’t need to be complicated. These tips can give you a place to start:

Toddlers and Preschoolers:

Help your young ones understand their feelings by naming them and talking about them. You can reinforce emotional awareness by reading books, learning to take turns, and explaining behavior expectations and consequences. Acknowledge your child’s feelings, but go the next step to demonstrate how a particular event impacts others. Teaching children empathy is about showing them how what they do affects those around them.

Grade-School Children:

Older children are better able to think past their own feelings to understand how friends or family members might feel. This is a good time to work on developing conflict resolution skills. You can highlight fairness, but also educate your kids about disappointment. Work with your child on learning self-control and show them the methods you use to manage feelings. Teaching children empathy is also about teaching them to work through their own feelings.

Teenagers:

Now is the time to reinforce and implement the empathy skills you’ve already taught. Teens are subjected to peer pressure, competition, and potential bullying to a higher degree. At this stage, your child’s ability to be empathic may safeguard other kids who haven’t received the same level of support and compassion you’ve provided. Young adults can practice acts of kindness in their communities, homes, and schools to strengthen their emotional and cognitive abilities. This is a great time to get kids involved in charity work.

Teaching Empathy To Children
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Empathy Starts At Home

 Moms and dads, you’re the number one role model for your kids. Teaching children empathy is about demonstrating kindness to those around you. Do your part and put empathy into practice at home. Demonstrate caring when you interact with your spouse or in how you react to sibling rivalry. You have the capacity to show your children the importance of being kind over always being right. You can also dedicate time to community service to show empathy in action.

Even young children can accompany you to volunteering commitments, while older children and teens may choose to spend time on issues that are important to them. Taking empathy out of the home and into the community highlights our human connection.

Plus, volunteering as a family has many benefits! You get to spend quality time with your kids and help them feel gratitude for what they have. In addition, your kids will start to recognize that they can make a difference in the world.

With a multi-faceted approach to teaching children empathy, you can share your beliefs about kindness, caring and tolerance with your kids. This will help them foster stronger relationships and feelings of gratitude as adults.

Have you had success in teaching children empathy or know any techniques to promote empathy in your community? Please share your thoughts and experiences in our Education Community.