Understanding what other people are feeling is key to building friendships, forming relationships and ultimately being a good member of society. Empathy is something that kids naturally develop at a young age, however it is also something that can be taught in order to make a child more empathetic. Below are 5 ways in which you can teach empathy to your kids.
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Empathize with your kids
The first and most obvious way to teach empathy is to show your kids that you can empathize with them. Saying things like ‘losing your toy must have made you feel sad’ or ‘doing that by yourself must have made you feel so happy’ shows kids that you are in tune with their emotions, and encourages them to try doing this with other people.
Read bucket filler books
‘Bucket filler’ books are great for teaching empathy. They promote the idea that everyone has an invisible bucket that should be filled with positive emotions – when you do a good deed, you fill someone else’s bucket, but when you do something bad to someone, you remove positive thoughts from this bucket. It is a great visual way of teaching empathy and the effect your actions have on others. This bucket filler book guide explains more about this concept.
Teach empathy through pretend play
You can also teach empathy through various pretend play games. This could include holding a tea party with soft toys and having one soft toy refuse to share the tea. Your child will see that this is not fair and channel their feelings through the toy they are playing with, teaching them to see their emotions through the eyes of others. Various other role play situations can similarly teach kids empathy and prepare them for similar real-world situations.
Label and validate their emotions
It’s important to label and validate your kids’ emotions when they are young. While they may experience feelings of jealousy and guilt and embarrassment, they may not understand these emotions. It is important to label them and show that you understand why your kids are experiencing these feelings. It’s also important to reassure kids, as this can teach them how to reassure others who are feeling the same emotions. This could include reminding your kid of the great things they have that other kids don’t when they are feeling jealous, or letting kids know that you have made similar mistakes before if they feel embarrassed about a mistake they have made.
Be a good role model
Kids learn by imitating their parents, and so the best way to teach kids empathy is often to make the effort to express empathy towards others. This includes practicing random acts of kindness to cheer people up, asking people who are clearly struggling if they need help and standing up for people who have been wronged against. This shows your kids that you’re not only aware of other people’s feelings, but also how to act upon these feelings.
This is a contributed post.
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