Is teaching empathy to kids apt? Or, is empathy inborn? Well, your child is at an early stage of their lives where they are open to new thoughts and habits. And, we all have a level of empathy in our lives. So, you can help your child bring out their empathetic side for their own benefit and the benefit of those around them.
Likewise, use this stage to counter any negative traits that may interfere with the child’s behavior and spiritual growth later on. But how do you teach empathy to your child? Today I will discuss with you 5 simple strategies that actually work.
But first let me define empathy.
Empathy refers to the ability to understand and be compassionate to others. You know, walking in that person’s shoes to experience their pain and triumphs first hand. That way, we can easily make life decisions that are mindful of others.
How Does It Work?
Empathy works the same way our life skills do. You learn to do small acts of kindness from childhood. Eventually, these acts build up to make a positive impact in your adult life. For example, a child may grow knowing that pets and domestic animals feel pain too. Hence, they will learn to treat all animals with dignity.
Why Should Children Develop Empathy?
Here is the thing. We live in a world where individualism, greed, and self-centeredness allude as part of one’s success. Most people believe that for them to succeed, they must hurt others in the process, whether directly or indirectly. In turn, any show of kindness or compassion to the suffering is often done as a bonus via social responsibility initiatives. If not, society categorizes you as weak.
In contrast, if you mix kids from different parts of the world, they will find a way to have fun without showing any bias to one another. These children will accept each other and form a lasting friendship. In addition, they are understanding, show empathy, compassion, and tolerance. These kids will also recognize bullies and call them out.
Yet, as the child grows, they encounter the harsh world and learn to adapt to it through complacency. You know, all of a sudden, kids start picking their friends depending on what toys they have, which house they live at, or where their parents work. That’s why as a parent, you play a crucial role in harnessing the empathetic traits in kids. That way, they can lay a solid foundation that is unshakable into adulthood.
5 Simple Strategies for Teaching Empathy to Kids
#1: Invest Your Time in Teaching Empathy to Kids
Choose one day of the week and volunteer at your local senior residents’ home, homeless shelters, or charity drives. Here, let your child tag along to witness as you feed and clothe the homeless, clean the streets, or donate blood at the local blood bank. And, if you have a passion for working with kids, take up teaching classes and be a certified preschool teacher. Volunteering is an excellent way of walking the talk.
#2: Lead by Example
Kids are keen observers of what we do. They watch how we, their parents, interact with others, taking note of most of the words and emotions we use. More so, a child may not recall their school lesson, but they will copy the parents’ responses when faced with similar challenges.
For example, a child may not know how to prepare food. However, this child will show compassion to a beggar they meet, and give that person some coins. They learn this compassion by watching their parents.
Here are some ways you can demonstrate kindness to your kids:
- Compliment kind habits
- Do random acts of kindness
- Read or share stories of how you showed or received compassion
- Send random kind thoughts to kids
- Acknowledge the children’s efforts in being empathetic
#3: Allow the Children to Experience Empathy
Now, opportunities for showing and receiving compassion are always spontaneous. A child who is on the receiving end can better appreciate what empathy does to others. Hence, create scenarios around the home or school where kids depend on the empathetic side of others to excel.
For example, you may ration the kids’ allowances, and give the older children the opportunity to share with their younger siblings. Or, when the child is hurt, use this time to show compassion by caring for them.
#4: Introduce Your Kids to Reading about Empathy and Kindness
Do you have kids in the toddlers to pre-teens ages? They can learn about empathy by reading about it. And, guess what, it doesn’t have to be boring. Today, there are lots of children’s books on empathy and kindness that include nursery rhymes and songs, word cards, word games, or even letter magnets.
These books focus on such topics as respect, gratitude, tolerance, acceptance, and understanding. Better still, you can use the exercises and role-plays in the books to create a print-rich surrounding to instill the values of being empathetic.
#5: Adopt a Pet
Finally, having some furry friends at home has lots of opportunities for teaching empathy to kids. Think of the times the dog needs to feed, clean, vaccinate, go for a walk, or train. Let your child participate in all these tasks to ensure the pet is well taken care of. And, when you need to travel, seek the help of another child in looking after the pet until you come back.
Likewise, a child who is allergic to fur may adopt an orphaned animal at the zoo. Here, the child commits to visiting it regularly to feed it. And, this child will practice saving by donating a part of their allowance towards the animal fund.
Are you already raising an empath child or do you need to teach them how to be empathetic? Either way, teaching empathy to kids creates a culture of kindness and compassion to humanity. It is a win-win strategy for all. Parents, older siblings, and extended family can also teach empathy to kids by living it.
Be on the lookout for opportunities to be kind, understanding, and compassionate to others. Use these chances as practice lessons. Expand your knowledge on empathy through reading. Let the child pick a book that appeals to them and try to be part of the children’s book club.