We are all born with the natural ability to feel empathy for others. But children who grow up too quickly without being given space and opportunity to explore their emotions, have a hard time understanding how other people might be feeling. Today we are talking about what you can do to raise an empathetic child.
Empathy is something that must be learned. While there are suggestions of a genetic component to being empathetic more and more we are learning that environment plays a key factor in whether a person demonstrates empathy as they grow into adults or not.
Oddly, children who have experienced great hardship aren’t always the most empathetic adults, nor are children who have been handed everything on a silver platter.
That’s why we know environment must play a crucial role.
You can raise empathetic kids by following these tips.
Provide a Caring Home
Home needs to be a safe place to fall. If children do not feel safe at home their will to survive can kick in and sometimes that will to survive lacks empathy.
It’s not their fault but if they are too scared, hungry, and mistreated even if they pull through and become successful adults they may be void of any empathy and still be unable to be happy with what they have and may even wind up being cruel to others without meaning to.
Let the home be a place where you can openly talk about feelings, provide lots of hugs and reassurance and practice acts of kindness in the home.
Show Them You Care About Others
One of the best ways to teach children empathy is by demonstrating your own empathy.
Let your children see that you’re upset because of the newest school shooting, or the earthquake in a faraway land.
Let them see you helping others, and caring for others including them, your spouse, friends, family, and strangers alike.
The more they witness caring and understanding the more they’ll understand it’s importance.
Give Children Opportunities to Show Gratitude
Children don’t have any money or time of their own, so unless you set up some opportunities they may not be able to show people gratitude or even know what it is or how to do it.
Get them to collect their old but in shape toys and clothing to give to the needy right before the holidays. Let them help you pick an Angel from the Angel Tree during the holidays.
Take them with you when you do any type of volunteer work so that they can help too.
As they see that others live differently from themselves have everyone in the family start a gratitude journal that they write in or record each night before bed.
Let Your Child Demonstrate Caring for You and Their Siblings and Pets
If you have pets and siblings, you have a great way already to help your child demonstrate caring for others. Pets help teach kids empathy.
When you’re sick ask your child to get you a cool cloth, or to make you some soup for older children, and ask for their help when siblings or pets need them.
When they see how happy people are when they care for them the reward will be the higher self-esteem they develop due to their help and concern.
Expand Your Child’s World View
Most of us have a habit of not paying much attention to the world these days.
We often don’t know anything about other cultures than our own street in our neighborhood. This is sad and can create a cult of the “other” as if they’re bad.
Thinking our home, our car, our neighborhood is better than someone else’s can cause disassociation from caring about others.
Show them that others don’t live the same through books, movies, vacations and more so that they learn about different cultures and understand that caring about all of humanity is important, even if we disagree we are all still humans with real feelings.
Be a Strong Example to Your Children
The biggest influence on your child’s ability to become an empathetic adult is you. You’re the strongest example to them about what to be or not to be.
If you show them empathy and let them see you caring for others they’re going to learn that it’s important to care and show care and understanding to others.
But, it all starts with you.
Remember that children are watching everything you do and soaking it in. If you cuss at the bad drivers on the road and get angry waiting in line at the grocery store they’re going to do the same.
Help Children Manage Their Feelings
Human emotions encompass both positive and negative feelings. We tend to ignore the negative feelings and try to push them down.
But, this is not the way to handle it. Instead, help children learn to manage negative feelings by naming them and defining them and identifying their cause.
The more you can help your child manage their own feelings the better they’ll be able to empathize with others.
Raising empathetic children requires that you are empathetic too.
Show yourself, your friends, family, and strangers empathy in front of your children and they will do what they see if you also teach them what it all means in the scheme of life.
Care and understanding are the most important ways we can improve the world and it all starts with us.