There are a lot of debates regarding whether or not empathy is innate capacity in human or a learned trait. However, one thing is for sure. Nurturing empathy on kids will only result in good things for the children moving forward.
Children with empathy will be able to cope with conflict and difficult situations better compared to those without empathy. They will also be less likely to engage in bullying; rather, they might be more than likely to jump in and stand up for the bullied peer.
There are a few things parents could do regarding nurturing empathy on kids, and some of those are:
1. Model empathy
One way of nurturing empathy on kids is by practicing empathy to them. When parents empathize with our children, we can let them develop trust and secure attachment with the parents. This can be done with simple things, such as picking children up when they fall and listen to them.
When children see the way their parents use empathy to respond to difficult situations, they will start to internalize those actions and will try to learn practicing the same thing.
2. Teach empathy through play
When children are playing with dolls or other things, parents can try to follow their children’s lead and use the opportunity to teach empathy during the play. For example, if they are playing with dolls and one of the dolls bumps into another doll, you can say “Ouch, I think my doll is hurt, can you help them?”
With this action, children will start to think that if someone is hurt or needs help, they should help out.
3. Teach kids to identify their feelings
Another way that could help in nurturing empathy on kids is to label their feelings for them, be it positive or negative. That way, children can connect their emotional reactions with words. This is very important because it will be hard for a child to understand how other people feel if they could not identify theirs.
Parents can do this with many things, and one of them is by reading through a picture book and point out the facial cues on the characters.
4. Make caring as a priority
In order for children to understand that other people’s perspective is also valuable, they would need to hear it from their parents directly. Parents should tell their children that caring about other people is important—as important as their own happiness.
5. Give children time to practice empathy
There is almost nothing better than letting children practice their empathy. This can take form in a family meeting where children can have their voices heard and listen to other people’s perspective, to the simple gesture of asking about their classmates or friends.
By nurturing empathy on kids, parents are preparing their children for the future. Empathetic people are generally well-liked due to how they are “socially intelligent”. This will then increase their self esteem.
Activities to try with your kids
If you want to try nurturing empathy on kids, there are a few activities we can suggest for you, and those are:
1. Facial Expression Exercise
This exercise will help kids with knowing what kind of emotion is felt by other people. In order to do this, you can grab a piece of paper and draw a facial expression, then show it to your kids. Let them guess what kind of feeling is the person is expressing.
If you want to experiment even more, you can let your kids draw the expressions, and you can be the one to guess.
In order to help you, TeacherVision provided a sheet of basic facial expressions you can print and show to your kids.
If you want to go for even more advanced emotion, Thought Catalog have some photographs that might help you to introduce facial expression to your kids.
2. Create a scenario during play
When you are playing dolls with your kids, you can try to create a scenario such as one of the dolls fell, or they dropped their lunch. See the facial expression of your kids and ask them what do they feel seeing a doll got into an accident. Also, ask them about what they will do or whether or not they will help the doll.