It is very vital to teach our children empathy but before we get into our topic in detail let us look at the meaning of empathy. What does empathy mean?
Definition of Empathy
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand another person’s feeling or to getting to understand the circumstances they are in. In simple words, empathy means to be a human being who is sensitive to the needs of others.
Empathy is necessary to sustain and create human relationships. It is a very important quality to get along with people, to be a good friend and to be successful. It is the root of all healthy relationships.
What does Empathy enable us to do?
- Empathy helps us to understand other feelings
- Empathy teaches us more about the people around us
- Empathy offers a more personal understanding of emotions
- Empathy helps us to become more self-aware of both ourselves and the people around us
- Empathy helps us to react appropriately based on a specific situation one is put into
Why do children need to be empathetic?
Along with other qualities, children should learn to be empathetic to learn to value, understand other’s feelings and respect people who are different from them. Empathy is the main key to prevent bullying and other harmful behaviours.
Various researches show that when a child displays more of empathy, he or she is less likely to have cruel behaviour like bullying etc.
Children with empathy engage more in good social work like helping others or sharing with the lesser fortunate. They turn away from anti-social activities and aggressive lifestyle. It is no wonder then that educators are trying to devote more time to educate children with empathy during the recent years.
Should we or can we teach empathy to very young children?
This is a tough skill to instil in children especially when they are too young but it is vital to teach our children to inculcate empathy whether at home or outside.
Let us look at a few ways or methods to help our children develop empathy in them:
- Model and show your child how to feel compassion for others. Did you know that we parents are the best models for our children? Yes we are. Children develop good and bad qualities by watching us and receiving our empathy that we offer them. Children value others and would show respect to others when they feel valued by us. Our children notice how we treat others and would more likely imitate us by being caring and compassionate.
- Let us make it a priority to care for others. We should help our children understand about the importance of caring for others and life does not revolve around us or our needs. So make it a point to care for others so that our children learn to empathize.
- Offer our children opportunities to practice. Allow your children to practice empathy. All empathy to become their second nature by repeating the importance of that quality. Should you find another child having social difficulties, then explain to your child about the other child’s feelings and encourage them to help the affected child.
- Extend your child’s world of concern. It is easy for children to offer empathy to their family members or friends or relatives but it can definitely be a tough challenge to offer empathy to people outside their world. In such situations encourage your children to talk about suffering people’s feelings who are in need.
- Teach children self-control. Children are sometimes blocked to express their empathy to others due to pressures and prejudices offered by our society. During such times you as a parent are to model anger management and conflict resolution through your own actions and allow your children to watch you get through those challenging situations in your life.
- Be a good coach. Use logical reasoning as a tool to teach children to consider the consequences of their negative or harmful actions.
- Serving and giving back to our community. Engage your children in volunteering so that they widen their worldview. Help them to learn about gratitude. Open their eyes to awareness and to be sensitive to others difficult circumstances.
- Model respect to those to seem to be different. Children tend to be fascinated by people who are different than them. So parents are to model and offer respect to such less privileged people so that children learn to respect people who are different from them.
- Teach them about diversity. Parents need to engrave in their children’s hearts that their lives would get enriched through their encountering people from other races, social and economic backgrounds, different physical or learning challenges.
- Be on the move. Many reseachers studied and pronounced that children who are physically active or are involved in sports excelled in empathy and turned out to be skilled leaders. Physical training can also calm their nerves.
- Teach your children on making amends. Explain to your children that it is ok to make mistakes. Children in general are self-centred and are still under a learning curve. Teach your children to behave with kindness and ethics but at the same time to recognize when they fall out of it. Teach them the power of offering apology even when they hurt people unintentionally.
Certain research study suggests that empathy is connected to improve interactions among students, will have less or rare behavioural issues in the classroom and children tend to have active participation in the class.
Important point to be noted is that empathy is like an atom of water molecule that ripples slowly outward. The initial drops may have a slow effect but it could take on a strong force, with persistence, and can change lives.