It’s easy to put blinders on and stop watching out for other people. The problem with this tunnel vision is that it doesn’t encourage and develop a strong empathy toward other people and their wellbeing. As you teach and develop empathy in your children, focus on a concern for the welfare of others. This perspective will serve your children well – both during childhood and beyond.
To help your child begin developing empathy, make your child aware of other people’s feelings, advises Utah State University. (ref 1) Whenever you are around other people, take a moment to comment on facial expressions and emotions when you see them so your child develops that same awareness.
Teach the importance of treating others with kindness and respect, suggests the American Psychological Association. (ref 2) Reinforce the priority of caring and thinking about others as you interact with your child. By continually casting the focus outward, thinking and talking about how others feel, you teach an empathetic perspective.
Model outgoing concern in your actions for your children to mimic. (ref 2) Act kindly, compassionately, and responsibly as you interact with other people. Be consistent. Your children will watch your actions and they will likely follow suit.
Find ways to help others and involve your children in service projects, counsels the ParentFurther website. (ref 3) Helping and serving others might be something as simple as providing an extra hand to a mom trying to juggle kids and shop at the same time. Serving others could also be more involved, perhaps volunteering at a food drive, or donating toys to a children’s shelter. Talk about how your specific actions benefit and serve others.
Discuss current events as they occur to help your children explore empathy for others in crisis. For example, after a hurricane hits a coastal area, brainstorm ways your family could provide assistance to people affected by the storm. Your child might wish to collect food donations or other disaster relief items that could help people suffering after the storm.
- Although concern for others has an outgoing focus, there are personal benefits as well, according to Carolyn MacInnes, with the Focus on the Family website. (ref 4) An empathetic attitude with a concern for others often enhances problem solving abilities and critical thinking skills. Moreover, people with an empathetic mindset may be more creative and have stronger social skills as well.
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