Why We Should Teach Empathy to Our Children?

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June 27, 2022

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Bullying is a pervasive issue that affects many people in different ways. Although it may not always be easy to recognize, we can all agree that it is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. While some individuals may not understand the impact of their actions on others, it is essential to teach them empathy.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It allows us to connect with people on a deeper level and can make a significant difference in our lives. For instance, when we show empathy to others, it creates a sense of belonging, reduces conflicts, and promotes positive relationships. Therefore, it is crucial to introduce empathy to our children as early as possible. By teaching them to empathize, we can help them grow into compassionate and caring adults who will contribute positively to society.

“All children have the capacity for empathy as natural to their psychology, but it is imperative that it be taught. It is a skill that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.” -Dr. Stephen Porges.

Many children need help to develop cooperation skills and a sense of social justice. Thus, empathy plays an important part in the learning process at an early age of development.

There are various theories about the causes of antisocial behavior in children. Some argue it’s learned from family, while others see it as a developmental disorder. Certain theories suggest that observing family members contributes, while some see it as cultural or evolutionary. Some even argue it’s innate rather than learned.

Theories are plentiful, but what is truly important? A child who has never been taught about empathy may struggle to comprehend the emotions of others. Without understanding what is empathy, children can grow up without realizing how their actions impact the people around them.

Here are some benefits of learning empathy:

  • It helps children develop social skills such as compassion and understanding.

  • Children learn how to cooperate through games such as “pretend” or “dialogue”.

  • Children learn how to express their emotions and how to work well together.

  • When children play together, they learn to understand each other’s emotions and needs. They also learn how to take turns and cooperate with others.

  • It helps children develop social skills such as compassion and understanding.

Why it is Important to Teach Empathy to the Child?

Empathy is a critical component of social interaction. It involves the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, but it is a trait that many children are not taught. When children lack empathy, they may struggle to understand others and this can lead to bullying, violence, and other social problems.

Empathy is also a complex trait that can be broken down into three key components: cognitive, affective, and behavioral. These three components are often taught in the classroom, but they are rarely used to their full potential because of the lack of understanding of how these components of empathy interact with each other.

Let us understand each component one by one:

Cognitive component:

This part involves being able to identify and understand the thoughts and emotions of others. Although this is often taught in a classroom setting, it can be difficult to teach children what empathy looks like because they are still learning how to identify and understand their own emotions.

Affective component:

This component includes understanding how others feel when they are around you. Although the affective component of empathy is often taught in the classroom, it is still difficult for children to understand what these emotions look like because they are not old enough and haven’t developed the necessary skills yet.

Social component:

This component involves taking actions to help others, such as comforting them and resolving conflicts with them. It also entails the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes. This can be difficult for children because they haven’t yet spent enough time understanding what it would be like if they were different. Additionally, this component includes accepting the feelings of others. For example, if a child is feeling angry but has to go to a relative’s house, it would be difficult for him to accept that anger and go there in a happy mood.

How to Teach Empathy to the Child?

Empathy is a skill that can be developed in children through various methods. Although books and films can be effective tools for fostering empathy, it’s important to note that parents and teachers can model empathetic behavior themselves and encourage children to consider the feelings and perspectives of others. Participating in community service projects or volunteering can also provide children with opportunities to interact with individuals from different backgrounds and circumstances, and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges they face. By exposing children to diverse experiences and encouraging them to think critically and compassionately about the world around them, we can help cultivate a generation of empathetic and socially conscious individuals. Let us understand how we can teach empathy using stories and books.

One way to teach children empathy is by telling stories about characters who possess certain types of emotions or learning the proper function of each emotion. Example of a story about compassion: “There was a group of chickens who were preparing for winter in the night. They were scared and lonely because the other animals had all gone to sleep. One chicken started shaking and after a while, she couldn’t stop crying from fear.”

Another way to teach children empathy is by telling stories about characters who experience emotions and work to overcome them. Example of a story about anxiety: “John was a little scared as he lay in the hospital bed with tubes going everywhere. He kept saying he wished his mom would be here.”

My favorite list of story/ activity books to teach empathy to your child:

  1. Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning about Empathy, by bob Sornson

  2. Empathy Is Your Superpower: A Book About Understanding the Feelings of Others, by Cori Bussolari

  3. I Am Human, by Susan Verde

  4. Kindness is my Superpower, by Alicia Ortego

  5. The invisible boy, by Trudy Ludwig

  6. Be kind, by Pat Zietlow Miller

  7. What is Empathy?, by Amanda Morin

  8. Empathy Workbook for Kids: 50 Activities to Learn About Kindness, Compassion, and Other People’s Feelings, by Hiedi France – A must try

  9. Be the Difference, by Jayneen Sanders

  10. We All Belong, by Nathalie Goss, Alex Goss

When We Should Teach Empathy to Our Children?

Teaching children aged three to five can impart the crucial trait of empathy. During this period, a child’s brain develops sufficiently to comprehend and process emotions. It’s important to note that empathy is a complex behavior that can’t be explicitly taught but must be learned through observation, imitation, and experience.

In the first three years of a child’s life, they typically exhibit happiness, curiosity, and energy. However, by their second birthday, their mood can swiftly change, leading to increased irritability or distress. Various factors, including the commencement of formal schooling and exposure to new social situations, may contribute to this shift in mood. Additionally, children may experience the influence of hormones like cortisol, which can significantly affect mood and behavior.

Recognizing the importance of empathy in nurturing positive social interactions, we should actively work to instill this trait in children at an early age. Although empathy can’t be explicitly taught, it can be encouraged through various means, including modeling empathetic behavior, prompting children to label and express their emotions, and creating ample opportunities for children to engage in cooperative and caring activities with their peers.

Conclusion:

Empathy is an essential aspect of the human experience. It enables us to connect with others and appreciate their unique perspectives. To be empathetic, we must cultivate a genuine sense of care and respect for every individual, regardless of their background, beliefs, or status in life.

It’s important to note that empathy is not just a feeling; it’s also a choice. We can choose to be empathetic by actively listening to others, putting ourselves in their shoes, and responding with kindness and compassion. By doing so, we can create a more positive and inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and heard.

In addition, as the saying goes, “children are our future.” It’s crucial that we model empathetic behavior for the younger generation, as they learn by example. By teaching them the importance of empathy and encouraging them to practice it in their daily lives, we can help create a more empathetic and compassionate society for generations to come.

Wisdomnest

Wisdomnest

Wisdomnest is an online Montessori community for parents, teachers, and learners. Join us to discover resources, connect with others, and explore Montessori education.
Wisdomnest

Wisdomnest

Wisdomnest is an online Montessori community for parents, teachers, and learners. Join us to discover resources, connect with others, and explore Montessori education.

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