As parents, surely you do not want to raise a child who only thinks about themselves.
Therefore, it is important to learn how to teach your child empathy so they can sympathize with other people and realize how their actions can affect the world around them.
1. Teach kids about emotions.
If kids lack a basic knowledge of human feelings, they are less likely to relate to others, as they do not understand what people are going through.
There are several ways in which you can help kids understand better about different mental states.
- Have a reflection session before sleeping time. Tell your kids about how you feel during the day, and ask them to voice out theirs. If they struggle to put emotions into words, give them a helping hand. For example:
“You told me you were feeling uncomfortable when you saw your deskmate’s high scores? Do you think it is out of envy? Were you feeling envious?”
- Play a matching game. Prepare two sets of cards. The first set includes pictures of various facial expressions, while the second set consists of words used to describe emotions, such as “anger” or “disappointment.” Ask the kids to match the facial expression with the correct term.
- Play a guessing game. Set up multiple scenarios, from which kids have to make a guess about what a particular person is feeling. For example:
“Derek wants a car toy for his 10th birthday. His mommy bought him a car, just like he has wished. What do you think he would feel when he receives the present?”
2. Help kids control and figure out adaptive ways to deal with their anger.
When a child loses their temper, it is easy for them to shout, yell, or even hit others without caring about the impact of their actions.
Do not try to lecture your kids about sympathy when they are riled up.
Instead, wait for them to calm down, and allow them to talk about their anger.
Even when their ire is unjustified, it matters for kids to realize that some negative emotions exist, but that should not come at the expense of compassion.
Ask them questions about how they have vented out their frustration, and decide whether it is acceptable for them to do it again.
For example: “What made you fight with your cousin? Is it because she took your crayons?”
Or “I saw that you were crying when daddy decided not to buy you ice cream. Why did you react that way?”
Then, parents should help kids express their emotions in better ways.
For example: “Hitting your sister is not good. Next time, when she takes your belongings, ask her nicely to return them. In case she does not do it, you can come over mommy and daddy. We will help you.”
Or “If you want daddy to get some ice cream for you, do not cry and stomp your feet like that. You can always ask him to buy you one, and promise to behave yourself.”
3. Have regular discussions over fictional characters that kids see on TV or in books.
Books and movies for kids usually feature characters that kids may find relatable.
Instead of just reading and watching for mere pleasure, try having some in-depth discussions with your child about how the characters develop their feelings throughout the whole story.
You can kick off by pointing out the situation happening, then proceed to ask for your kid’s interpretation of the story.
For example: “I think Jenny is unhappy when her mommy does not get her the dress she wanted. Do you think she should feel sad about it?”
4. Set a good example of being kind and compassionate.
Kids learn a great deal through imitating adults’ behaviors.
Thus, you should always try to come off as someone caring and sympathetic towards others.
By expressing visible traits of kindness and charity, you will slowly reinforce the importance of being conscientious in your kids’ minds.
If possible, try to get your kids involved when you are displaying signs of compassion.
For example, you volunteer to cook for the Church.
While your kids cannot help with the cooking, they certainly can help with the food preparation.
Or when you are selecting uneased goods to donate, ask your kids to come along and explain how people can benefit from things you no longer use.
5. Show kids how to respect the differences.
It might be easy for kids to show their empathy towards familiar people – such as family members or friends.
However, asking them to uphold a respective attitude when confronted with someone seemingly different is a real challenge.
For example, kids often show surprising – or even confusing – reactions when they first meet someone with disabilities.
Similarly, if kids encounter a man wearing makeup, or a girl cutting her hair short, they tend to be puzzled and do not know how to respond.
If kids are prompted to ask questions, do not shush them and deprive them of a chance to explore the diversity of human beings.
Instead, give them truthful answers about why people choose to dress up a certain way, or why some people end up in a wheelchair.
Kids are never too young to learn and appreciate the difference of others.
6. Understand that it is perfectly normal for small kids to be egocentric.
Some parents are concerned that their kids are self-centered, as they have not displayed any sign of being empathetic.
Worry not, because children’s brains are still developing, which means most of them are not mature enough to be fully aware of how important empathy is.
With proper education, your kids will slowly learn to get out of their selfish zone.
Empathy is an often neglected characteristic compared to confidence or intelligence, but it plays a vital role in shaping how kids develop their sentiments for people around them.
Through a slow and gradual learning process, your kids will soon realize it is essential to foster a sense of compassion.