As parents, caregivers, and educators we must help our children by teaching them how to build compassion, empathy, and the inclusion of all. These skills will help them as they interact with peers at school and will stay with them throughout life.
What is empathy? Empathy is our capacity not just to understand but to actually share in the feelings of others – even if we don’t feel the same way or haven’t had the same experiences. Empathy is an aspect of emotional intelligence and to master it takes observation, active listening and sensitivity.
Our children are able to feel and show empathy, but we must teach them this skill. As the adults in our children’s lives, we must actively model how to think outside of our own experiences and show compassion for others.
Read on for a few tips on how to promote these traits to the children in your life.
Be An Active Listener
We all listen to those around us, but are you actively listening? Listening is more than just hearing the words someone is speaking. Active listening means you are truly taking in what someone is saying, asking clarifying questions, and acknowledging what the speaker is saying. Model this skill by being an active listener in conversations with your child. They pick up on more than you think!
Talk Openly About Other People’s Experiences
Naturally, we want to shield children from negativity and hardships occurring in the world. But sometimes these hard conversations can be beneficial in expanding their views and understandings of others. When your child comes to you with tough questions or they don't understand a topic, use the moment as an opportunity to have open, honest conversations.
Give Your Child Opportunities to Experience and Understand Empathy
Spending time in your community can help foster more understanding for the people in and around your lives in both yourself and your kids. Here are some ideas to get involved and give back to your community. These projects provide opportunities to practice empathy and understanding with your children.
- Make cookies and drop them off to someone who could use a day brightener!
- Make gifts for classmates. Encourage your child to make small gifts for everyone in their class. For example, they could make a card or a bookmark to share a surprise act of kindness.
- Volunteer at community organizations. Spread kindness by volunteering with your child at a community organization, like a soup kitchen or animal shelter.
Teaching your child how to show kindness and empathy and then providing them with opportunities to do so will have a lasting impact.