It’s important for us to foster empathy skills in our children so that they can learn to care about other people’s viewpoints. The best way to teach your children empathy is for you to model empathy towards them. Be open to the range of emotions they express, and don’t try to shut them down. Some feelings may be more comfortable than others—for us and our children. But, if we can normalize our children’s emotions and teach them how to recognize and value their own emotions, they can learn to be more sensitive to others’ feelings.
We can show our kids how important it is to ask questions and to listen carefully to someone’s answers in order to understand their situation better. Being empathic is recognizing that and trying to respond in a way that will be helpful or meaningful to another—something that kids, even from a young age, can do.
Here are a few suggestions to encourage empathy in you and your child:
🌷 Discuss a time someone knew how either of you were feeling without being told. How do you think they knew? Can you describe what they did or said? How did that make you feel? What are clues you can look for to understand how another person is feeling?
🌷 When you’re watching a movie or TV show with your child, talk about how one of the characters might be feeling and how you would feel in that situation.
🌷 If you’re taking time to talk with a friend about a challenging situation, explain to your child what you’re doing and why. You don’t have to share the details but do let your child know that you’re listening to your friend and trying to help. Or, if your child talks about a conversation with a friend, highlight ways in which they were showing empathy.
Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.
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