At a time when young people are seemingly encouraged by social media and pop culture to be self-absorbed, it is now more important than ever to teach our children how to genuinely respect and care for all people. Teaching children empathy is an important part of producing kids that care about others and that have strong social skills. Today I am happy to feature some excellent activities that teach kids empathy from Eileen Carey, award-winning pop-country singer-songwriter and blogger. Hear her on SoundCloud and check out her blog The Music Mom.
How To Teach Children Empathy
Empathy is important is everyday interactions starting out with sharing as a toddler to business interactions as an adult. Mastering this skill can be tough, though, so it is never too early to focus on empathy both inside and outside your home. The meaning of the word empathy is the action of understanding and being sensitive to the feelings of others. It is more than just being nice thought that is part of it. It is the ability to anticipate and understand how someone else may feel when you say or do something.
Empathy is important to more meaning connections. As Life Hacker puts it, “We are all in our own bubble, with our own unique perspective on the world, and it is crucial for our personal development to understand how other people experience the world…to be truly empathetic, you need actively think about the concerns of others.”
3 Empathy Activities For Kids
I think you find these three activities that teach kids empathy very useful. Teaching children empathy is not a one time explanation of the meaning of the word empathy but an ongoing process where we model and encourage empathetic behaviors. Here are three ways to teach empathy to your children, regardless of their age.
3 Tips from Eileen Carey
1. Explore with them different human emotions.
The first step to successfully empathizing with others is being able to identify one’s own feelings. Kids should be taught to label what they are feeling so they can eventually identify it in others. As your child makes her way through her day, make an effort to point out which emotions you see her feel. For example, you might tell her “I noticed that you’re disappointed because you didn’t have time to play before bedtime.” Likewise, give voice to your emotions: “Momma felt really frustrated just now when our car wouldn’t start.”
2. Give a voice to those who can’t speak for themselves.
Babies illicit a natural sense of empathy. It is nature’s way of making sure they are properly cared for. Ask your child to try to figure out what a baby is trying to say when he cries: “What does he need? How do you know that?” The same can be done for pets, who often communicate an earful without ever saying a word.
3. Model respect for those who seem different.
Children are naturally intrigued, and sometimes even fascinated by, those who seem different. My own kids have awkwardly asked “What is that?” upon seeing someone in a wheelchair. Your first inclination might be to hush your child as quickly as possible, but that is not the best move. Introduce yourself to the person and allow her to meet your child. Many people with disabilities are more than okay with explaining their situation. This is a great opportunity for your child to see that he has more in common with the person than he originally thought.
Still want more activities that teach kids empathy? Try this tip from Michelle Moore, author of A Mother’s Grace. “There are so many ways to open a child’s mind to everyday opportunities of the good around them…Take them out into nature and teach them to respect it, they need to not only respect other human beings but our world and all of the creatures in it. Hike, camp, boat, travel, but don’t just do it, engage your kids into the experience and discuss what they are grateful for and how they can pay it forward.”
I hope these tips help you raise an empathetic and thoughtful child. Remember that kids learn best through encouragement. Sometimes teaching children empathy is as simple as asking a question. If I did something that was not very empathetic as a child, my grandmother would ask me, “Would you like it if I (or they) did that to you?” When I would answer no, she would remind me, “Always do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
I know that life is not short on challenges but he best way to teach empathy is by modeling it yourself. Our kids are continually watching us, so we will always be the best teachers of what it means to be kind and caring to all people. I hope you find these activities helpful in teaching children empathy. Share you best tips or stories that involve empathy @familyfocusblog!