In a world where people carry so many crosses of their own, finding empathy is almost like finding a diamond while walking on the street. What are the chances? I would say pretty little. Use these 7 activities to teach and help build attributes of empathy in your child today.
Here is why, as per a meta-analysis conducted by Sara Konrath from the University of Michigan, our ability to empathize only seems to be reducing over the years. In this study, empathy tests were conducted over US citizens in 30 years, during which it was found that the average American today is less empathetic than 75% of Americans 30 years ago.
But what if YOU could help change this? After all, change begins with you and your family before others. Teaching the art of empathy to a young mind can have life-altering effects in the long run.
It is a big responsibility, but it is possible through some simple day-to-day activities. You do not need books from authors, universities, counselors, or psychologists. Empathy begins in an essential space of everyone’s life - Home.
What are some of the benefits that are associated with empathy?
Here are some exciting benefits of teaching your child empathy:
- It promotes overall good mental health.
- The likelihood of bullying or being bullied reduces since there is an element of social harmony.
- Induces better conflict resolution skills.
- Promotes better leadership skills.
- Help grow a better parent-child relationship.
It is said that empathy is a virtue that is built over time. Hence, teaching this to the mind while young is the best possible approach since it has that kind of time to understand better and learn this virtue.
This process is a lot easier to teach to a child since children from the age of 8-12 are naturally inclined towards being more empathetic and understanding towards people and situations. This is why building the foundation of this from the beginning itself can help.
By instilling the virtue of empathy, your child will be able to build secure and meaningful relationships with their friends, grandparents, siblings, and even you.
What are some ways through which I can teach my child empathy?
You will be surprised how easily you can help teach your child this virtue through some simple 9 day-to-day activities. Here is how you can begin:
Practice what you preach
The biggest mistake parents often make is when they don’t practice what they preach. Your children watch and observe what you do a majority of times, and if they notice you not doing it, be assured that they won’t do it too.
Starting by practicing empathy when your child makes mistakes or is hurting about something helps a lot. Show them empathy by making statements such as:
- “How do you feel about this?”
- “I understand how that must feel.”
- “That does sound frustrating.”
- “I wish you didn’t have to feel this way.”
- “What can I do to help?”
- “That makes sense.”
Indulge in books and movies that show empathy.
One of the most significant factors that can affect a child’s mentality is the power of books and visuals. There are several notable books on empathy for your child that you can add to your collection as part of the daily reading to help teach your child this.
There are books such as - The Invisible Boy, Be Kind, I am Human, and several others that touch the topic of empathy and explain this concept through ways a child can understand.
According to a report by statista.com, the medium of television remains the preferred choice of media among kids aged 5 to 8. Why not use this medium to teach your child empathy?
Several movies on empathy for children, such as Wonder, Zootopia, Inside out, and several others. Using a popular medium to instill empathetic values in children is nothing but a genius way of getting to your child.
Help your child understand emotions
For your child to understand empathy, the child needs to understand different types of emotions. You can do this by keeping in check your child and asking them how they feel.
Using day-to-day examples such as how the taste of a snack, playing a game, little sibling rivalries, mom and dad being busy makes your child feel. Through these examples, you can ask your child how they feel.
- “I know I was busy all day, and we couldn’t play together. How did that make you feel?”
- “Did that make you sad? I am sorry you felt upset; I would feel the same too. Can you tell me more about how you felt? It makes sense for you to have felt that way.”
Similarly, talk to your child about certain different emotions you notice in other situations so you can introduce certain new types of emotions that they might not have come across yet.
- “It looks like your best friend Henry is anxious about his test. Do you know how you could help?”
- “It seems like Ava is jealous that her sister got candy and she didn’t. Why do you think she felt that way?”
Give them cues to show empathy
In a play, certain words or actions act like cues for the following dialogue or action scene to come in place. Similarly, for your child to get an idea of how this works, it is helpful when you give them cues.
This way, they will understand then and there when to use empathy and what situation to bring this in. Using live examples to teach empathy can help them understand this better.
- “It looks like daddy had a long day. Why don’t you make him a warm cup of tea and throw in a hug?”
- “Your brother got hurt today. Why don’t you get him a band-aid?”
- “Sheeba just got back from the vet today. Why don’t you give her some toys and her favorite treat?”
Create make-believe situations
I am pretty sure you have pampered your child with several toys that mean the world to them. Use these as ‘patients’ or ‘friends’ who need advice from your child to feel better. You can ask your child to play doctor and offer different ways to help his or her patients feel better.
- “Mr. Rhino has come in today with the Monday blues. He seems to be feeling sad. How can you help him feel better, doctor?”
- “It looks like Dexter, the dog, is scared for an appointment with the doctor! How can you help him get through this doctor?”
Your child can proceed with ways to offer help, and you can play assistant to give them the little advised based suggestions to solve the case. With every case solved, you can provide your child a reward like a star, snack, or anything that can help them feel accomplished.
Another fun way to teach your child is through baby clothes and costumes. Every child has their understanding of how emotion works when they initially start coming across it. One of the best ways to understand how they interpret a particular feeling is to ask them to dress up like it.
- “If happiness was a cartoon, how would they dress up?”
- “If anger was a cartoon, what kind of costume would they wear?”
Go ahead and ask them why they chose specific colors or types of clothes to understand how they interpret an emotion. This will help guide you and teach them emotion better if they have not grasped something well.
Every night before your child sleeps, sit with them to reflect over the day and ask them what they observed emotions-wise. Ask them if they noticed something new with their sibling, friend, mom, or dad. Proceed to ask them further if they felt like they showed empathy.
If they did, ask them how and compliment them for a job well done. If they say they have not, encourage them and let them know that there is always tomorrow. You can ask your child to make it a habit to show empathy to one person a day.
Slowly, the numbers will increase. Make sure you compliment your child with every increase in number, so they feel good about it and will want to do more eventually.
Using these simple yet effective techniques daily is guaranteed to bring about some heartwarming results and situations. You will not only be imparting the knowledge of empathy to your child but also yourself.
t is said that once you have a child, a lot of learning is imparted from both ends. In a world where empathy is not very visible, having even one person step up and show this attribute is a blessing. And it all starts with YOU.
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