Teaching empathy is crucial in raising compassionate and emotionally intelligent children who can navigate the world with kindness and understanding. Empathy allows children to understand and share the feelings of others, leading to improved relationships and a better understanding of the world around them. My daughter is an absolute melting mix of my emotions as well as her dads. It’s how she handles them as she grows that will be quite the sight to see. Already diving deep into books to help guide, I have pulled together some strategies so far that could perhaps help you too! Obviously, I am no doctor. I am a curious Mama Bear always in search of help and guidance to better navigate the wild world of parenting for my daughter.
Strategies for teaching children empathy. Tips I’ve learned along the way:
- Model Empathy: Children learn by watching and imitating the behaviour of adults around them. Therefore, it’s important to model empathy in your interactions with your child, as well as in your interactions with others. When your child sees you responding with kindness, concern, and understanding, they are more likely to do the same.
- Listen with Empathy: One of the most important ways to teach empathy is to listen to your child with empathy. When your child is upset or distressed, take the time to listen to them without interrupting or dismissing their feelings. This will help your child feel heard and validated, which can lead to a greater understanding of others’ feelings.
- Use Literature and Storytelling: Books and stories can be powerful tools for teaching empathy. Reading stories about different experiences and perspectives can help children understand and appreciate different points of view. Additionally, talking about the characters’ feelings and motivations can help children develop empathy for them. This is huge in our household. My daughter loves books and I always reference them throughout the day, especially if there is a tantrum.
- Practice Perspective-Taking: Perspective-taking is the ability to put oneself in another person’s shoes and see things from their point of view. You can practice this with your child by asking them to imagine how they would feel in another person’s situation. This can be done through role-playing or discussion. Again, I use this and reference lots of storybooks.
- Encourage Kindness and Generosity: Encourage your child to be kind and generous to others. This can be as simple as saying “please” and “thank you” or sharing a toy with a friend. These small acts of kindness can go a long way in teaching children empathy and compassion. Each day I see Adiya getting better and better with “please” and “thank you”. She is “quite pleased” with here self;)
- Acknowledge Emotions: Acknowledge your child’s emotions and help them label them. When your child is upset or angry, acknowledge their feelings and help them identify the emotion they are experiencing. This can help children develop emotional awareness and empathy for others.
- Foster Diversity and Inclusion: Encourage your child to embrace diversity and celebrate differences. Teach them to respect and appreciate people who are different from themselves. This can be done by exposing them to different cultures, religions, and lifestyles. We are lucky to travel so much and exposing Adiya to the great big world. Also, her school is very diverse and rich with different cultures and religions. I love that she has this opportunity to experience it all as I had a very different and less diverse upbringing.
Teaching empathy is a crucial aspect of raising emotionally intelligent children who can navigate the world with kindness and understanding. By showing empathy, listening with empathy, using literature and storytelling, practicing perspective-taking, encouraging kindness and generosity, acknowledging emotions, and fostering diversity and inclusion, you can help your child develop this important skill. With practice and patience, you can help your child become a kind and compassionate member of this wild and crazy world.
Ashley is a mom, founder of the Bizzimumzi podcast, and Define London fitness studio. She is a former Broadway performer and celebrity trainer. Through Bizzimumzi Ashley has created a welcoming community to share the highs and lows of parenting, and inspire others to feel empowered in their journey. Ashely believes the most perfect picture of parenting is simply when you are trying your best. Bizzimumzi is a safe space that helps parents to inspire, educate and support each other to be the best parent they can be.