Some days I find it hard to empathize with others when their stories don't seem to match my current situation or view on life, but it is important to learn this art.
Empathy often fuels kindness and our world is surely in need of more kindness.
Here are some tips on how you can teach empathy to your children.
Talk about feelings
Understanding one's own feelings is called emotional awareness. It is important for our children to grow in the ability to identify emotions in themselves in order for them to recognize those emotions in others. One way to help your children build their emotional awareness is by sharing your emotions with them throughout the day.
You can even make it a game by having them identify different emotions by using different facial expressions or non-verbals associated with an emotion and see if they can guess it.
Then have them try while you guess.
Read them stories about empathy and kindness
Reading to your child(ren) is so important to their language and literacy development, so why not allow it to build their emotional awareness too.
There are several books that help children build and express empathy and kindness.
Catch them being kind
It is just as important to recognize and acknowledge a child when they are being kind as it is to talk to them about being kind. By acknowledging their kind acts, it reinforces a caring mindset.
Expose them to diversity
Giving a child the opportunity to discover and experience life through different perspectives is a great way to grow and nurture empathy.
This can be done in a number of ways such as reading books, eating at restaurants with ethnic cuisine, attending different religious or ethnic group activities, and being involved in community events.
Be the example
Parents are the most influential person in their children's life, meaning if you want your child to be empathetic, you need to be empathetic.
Identify how you feel from time to time. "I feel frustrated right now," or "When you smile at me, it makes me feel good inside."
Not only is it important to help them identify their emotions through the practice of identifying yours, but it is also critical to own our mistakes when we mess up.
"When you started crying, Daddy didn't handle that right. I should have been more patient with you and asked you why you were crying instead of assuming."
Children look to parents to understand how to act, so be a good example.
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