How To Teach Kids Empathy

January 14, 2023

Quote of the Week

"You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself." --John Steinbeck

How To Teach Kids Empathy

Empathy in its simplest form is the awareness of the feelings and emotions of others. It is the ability to understand how someone else is feeling, to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, or to see things from someone else’s perspective. Feeling empathy for and with others inspires us to act compassionately. It is an essential component of emotional intelligence that allows us to connect socially with others.

So many of us go to great lengths to teach our children empathy. We point out when their behavior hurts others and try to teach them to be responsible for their actions. But when we use our own relationship, and our own emotions to do it, that’s when things get tricky. Because when we use language like, “When you hit me, I feel sad”, we make our emotions our child’s problem. Phrases like this teach our children that they are the cause of our feelings. And then, they think they should hide their feelings so as not to upset us. They learn that our emotions are more important than theirs. And that’s a problem. Because if we want to create a secure attachment with our kids, they need to know that they can show up authentically in their relationship with us. They need to know that it’s safe to bring all of their big, messy emotions to us and that we can handle them.

The key to helping young children with empathy, and to understand how others feel, is to acknowledge their feelings first. Only when someone feels truly seen and understood can they see and understand someone else.  Read more in this week's featured article.

Reading Corner

Title: The Rabbit Listened
By: Cori Doerrfeld
Ages: 3-5

"Much as adults try to shield them, every child will face grief and loss in life. Such is the case with Taylor, who is understandably devastated when the block tower he worked so hard to build is knocked down by a flock of birds. A parade of animals tries to help — suggesting Taylor laugh about it or scream in anger — but they all walk away once he discards their advice. Only the rabbit stays. By simply being present, the rabbit demonstrates empathy and support, and teaches kids that listening is the first step to understanding." --Publishers

Be the Change

Watch this short clip from the film "Inside Out" and ask your child how they felt watching it.  When have you been one character or the other? This week look for an opportunity to just be present and sit with someone who needs it.