How to Teach Kids Empathy

From the age of 3 to 6 years, the child develops the tendency to actively explore new social possibilities.

During the initial stages, the child selfishly interacts with the surroundings to satisfy their natural curiosity. But there comes a time when children start to realize their relationship with the surrounding environment.

It is important to inculcate the essential value of empathy in the child during the early stages of emotional as well as social development.

Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings and pain of others, it is the ability to place oneself in the other person’s position. 

Empathy is situated at the true northern end of the Compass Abilities. Empathy facilitates the child’s ability to express emotions, compassion, and kindness towards others as well as themselves.

Teaching Empathy is more than molding the child’s nature through educational activity, it is a two-way street.

To develop the child’s ability to become empathetic the primary caregivers and educators must make the child feel heard, understood, as well as seen.

There have been multiple groundbreaking discoveries that help caregivers and educators on the opportunity to cultivate empathetic values in the developing child. 

What is Empathy? 

Empathy is an extensive concept. Empathy is the ability to understand, feel, sense, and acknowledge other people’s emotions.

Empathy involves a deep understanding of other people’s needs and how the other individual might get affected in a supportive and comforting way.

Paul Ekman and Daniel Goleman are psychologists who identified three distinct components of Empathy. 

How to teach children Empathy? 

Nurturing Empathy in developing children is crucial and necessary, but it is not a one-way street.

To properly facilitate the ability to feel empathy in children, the adults must make the children feel heard, understood, and seen as separate individuals.

By incorporating the following steps parents, teachers, and caregivers can successfully instill the value of empathy in children. 

1. Empathize the child by Becoming a Role Model:

For the first 6 years, children receive information and knowledge from the surrounding environment.

The surrounding environment also incorporates the actions of the adults.

The child will learn empathy from the behavior portrayed by the parents and the surrounding caregivers.

It is absolutely essential to portray and model empathetic behavior in front of the developing child. 

  • Adults must have an intimate understanding of the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional aspects. 
  • The adult must demonstrate empathetic behavior towards others in the presence of the child. 
  • Adults can indulge in activities that promote self-care and self-reflection to avoid becoming overwhelmed in front of the child. 

2. Empathize the child by Setting High Ethical Expectations:

The Adults must prioritize empathetic behavior for the child. By setting empathetic behavior on top of the priority list adults can set their expectations for the child in terms of ethical behavior high. 

  • To instill the value of empathy adults must send the right and clear messages to the child.
  • Adults can prioritize talking about influential family members and influential members of society in front of the child. 
  • Adults must help the child understand that they are contributing part of society. The child should not feel entitled to anything. 

3. Provide opportunities to Practice Empathy:

Children are often born with the ability to feel empathy but, practice does make perfect.

Adults can nurture and enhance the value of empathy in the child by providing opportunities to practice empathetic behavior in a controlled environment. 

  • Adults can pose challenging situations to a child in family meetings. It is important to listen and understand the perspective of the child.
  • Adults must encourage the child to be empathetic toward their peers.
  • Encourage the child to perform activities in social and peer groups.

4. Help the Child Emote Feelings Freely:

Children who don’t have control over their emotions or the freedom to express their emotions children can often have a lack of empathy. 

  • The adults can help the child identify the problems and emotions that affect their behavior.
    Feelings of stress, frustration, sadness, and anger should be identified and talked about.
  • The Adult must help the child control their behavior and negative emotions.
    The Three-step method is an effective way to control negative emotions. The child should be instructed to stop, deep breathe, and count to five when experiencing negative emotions. 
  • The adults can also help the child overcome negative emotions by helping them resolve conflicts.
    By helping the child to handle conflicts in a rational way the adults can effectively instill the value of empathy.

What Are the 3 Components of Empathy? 

Acclaimed Psychologists Paul Ekman and Daniel Goleman have identified three different types of empathy among individuals.

With a comprehensive understanding of the three Components of Empathy, one can achieve a better understanding, trust, and relationship with peers, coworkers, family members, and friends. These Components are:

1. Cognitive Empathy:

Cognitive Empathy is often known as the “Role of Taking” and is the ability to understand another individual’s perspective and feel their pain.

One experiences Cognitive Empathy when one views the problem from the other person’s perspective without losing the sense of self.  

2. Emotional Empathy:

Emotional Empathy is also referred to as “Emotional Responsiveness”. Emotional Empathy can be a building block between individuals.

This component of empathy is more than understanding one’s feelings and perspective.

Emotional Empathy is a vicarious experience of another person’s emotions. It can often extend to physical sensations.

Emotional Empathy helps an individual to become understanding, comforting, trusting, and reassuring. 

3. Compassionate Empathy:

Compassionate empathy is also known as “Empathetic Concern”. This component of Empathy is essentially a balance between Emotional and Cognitive Empathy.

It is the ability to understand as well as share another individual’s emotions without taking those emotions as our own.

It utilizes emotional intelligence to problem solve but without making the individual overwhelmed with emotions. 

What are the Milestones of Empathy? 

The development of social and emotional skills in children often begins during the first year of their life.

To establish a better relationship with the child the primary caregivers must acknowledge this. These milestones are:

After 6 Months Old:

After the initial six months, the child starts to use social referencing.

Social Referencing is the process where the infant shows effective displays to parents, primary caregivers, or other adults in authority to figure out an appropriate response to a situation by looking at their reaction.

It occurs mostly after 9 months and helps the infant understand the world and people around them. 

18 to 24 Months Old: 

Between 18 to 24 months the child starts to develop the theory of mind.

Infants realize that they have their separate thoughts, beliefs, and goals.

The infant develops the cognitive ability to express their beliefs, desires, and intentions to the surrounding adults.

The child also starts to develop a sense of self and recognize themselves in the mirror. The infants start to consider themselves as separate individuals. 

What is the Importance of Empathy?

 Empathy is a vital aspect of a harmonious, unified, and cohesive society.

Here are some reasons that will help clarify the importance of Empathy in an individual’s life. 

Better Understanding of emotional needs:

Empathy is the ability to intimately understand another individual’s emotions and problems so, one can trigger an appropriate response to the situation. 

Lack of Empathy:

The lack of empathy can affect the children negatively in their future prospects and might even lead to psychopathy as well as make them prone to conduct disorders in the future.  

Empathy and Future Prospects:

Empathy has direct effects on the child’s academic intelligence. Research has proven that empathy can impact the child’s future economic aspects, health, academic aspects, satisfaction with one’s life, and resilience. 

Empathy and Leadership:

Empathy not only builds the child’s ability to understand others’ emotions and problems but also helps the individual take moral risks. Empathy is crucial for leadership qualities. 

Empathy and Positivity:

Children with empathetic qualities are less likely to participate in social misconduct, less aggressive, are great leaders, portray positive social behavior, and indulge in acts of kindness. 

The Right Foundation:

Empathy provides children with the right foundation to establish as well as maintain healthy, strong, and compassionate relationships with others throughout their life.