Encouraging children to practice empathy is an important part of children discovering their own emotions as well as those of others.
Since empathy can be learned you can start at a very young age talking about feelings and expressing feelings using words.
Sometimes in our busy lives, it can be hard to catch each situation and use it to learn and express empathy so you can set up activities that help.
Here are four activities you can do today, that help teach children empathy.
Name It Claim It
Each day at a certain time you should ask your child how they feel. Don’t tell them how they feel. Instead, ask them how they feel. If they say, “I don’t know.”
Then you should describe some potential feelings without naming it yet to see if they can pick one.
Once they pick a feeling, talk about this feeling and tell them about a time when you felt that way too.
If you can relate their feeling to other people such as a character in a book or movie, or even someone you learned about on the news, do so.
That helps them realize that other people have feelings too.
A good board game, or even softball outside, can teach a lot about empathy. It also teaches good sportsmanship.
Being a good sport though isn’t about acting like you don’t care if you win or lose but instead is about respecting the winner while also knowing that the loser feels bad about losing and that’s okay.
Therefore, win or lose you have to take into account other people’s feelings too.
Start a Gratitude Journal
As soon as children can write, or record their voice unassisted, help them create a gratitude journal to use each night before bed as part of their bedtime routine.
By looking at what they’re grateful for rather than what has harmed them they learn to be more empathetic to others who have less than they do. It’s also a great way to help build your child’s character.
For example, being thankful for a roof shows that you understand that some people don’t have one.
Books help children explore other worlds and lives in a way that they might not otherwise learn.
For example, reading about space discovery in the form of a fictitious but factual novel can give children a new perspective on everything from race relations to the importance of keeping our earth clean for future generations.
Morals have long been taught in story form, but people seem to read less today than ever before. The more someone reads the more empathetic they usually are.
That goes for children as well as adults. It can help to read the books your child reads so that you can be open to discussion about the books and the implications of the lessons they may learn from them.
Putting a name to all the emotions people feel without judgment will improve their emotional intelligence and make them become more empathetic humans.