Tuesday February 26, 2019
In the parental quest to raise a good and decent human being, have you considered ways to ignite empathy in your child? Many parenting experts believe having empathy is essential to becoming the best person you can be: kind, caring, respectful, and tolerant.
Studies show that teens are 40 percent less empathetic today compared to 30 years ago.
According to educational psychologist and author Dr. Michele Borba, this lack of empathy trend in kids gets in the way of collaboration, innovation, and problem-solving.
“You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.” – John Steinbeck
Empathy is easy to talk about but harder to practice. It needs nurturing. Luckily, empathy is a trait that can be taught. There are many ways to use your parent superpowers to impact your child through empathy education.
- Talk about and label emotions. Start by identifying how your child feels: “You seem irritated” or, “Are you worried?” Then, help her understand someone else’s emotions by asking, “How do you think Kate is feeling?” Next, activate her empathy, which motivates caring: “If you think your friend is sad, how could you help her?”
- Get creative and role-play. Empathy is identifying with the feelings of others, seeing the world through another’s eyes. Ask your child to imagine someone else’s feelings and needs, especially when a real situation comes up. Act out the scene with your child being the person whose feelings were hurt, so she can imaginatively step into their shoes.
- Wonder out loud. Prompt your kids to think about somebody different from them. When you see a homeless person or senior citizen or people from another culture, wonder aloud about them: “Where he’s sleeping tonight?” Or, “Is she lonesome?” These questions help children consider the feelings of people unlike themselves and become empathetic to the struggles of others.
- Recognize caring moments. When your family witnesses kindness somewhere, point it out. Kids are more likely to copy kindness and compassion if they see it.
Through empathy, kids learn to better understand their own emotional landscape and that of others. With some effort, you can plant the seed of empathy in your child and nurture it for a lifetime.