Empathy is the ability to understand and experience the feelings of others, and to respond in helpful ways. It’s imperative that children be taught to have empathy towards their peers. Whilst some children can show empathy more naturally than others, it is an important skill for all to learn.
As Christians, we know that Jesus was always sensitive to the plight of others. We recognise the way empathy is demonstrated in many biblical narratives.
Showing empathy can be positive for your child across many different areas of their lives. An empathetic child will be better equipped to handle conflict and difficult social situations and is unlikely to engage in bullying behaviour. He is also more likely to develop adaptive coping skills as a result of his empathetic nature. Most importantly, he will become more inclined to take action by serving others.
Here are five ways to teach empathy to children:
1. Demonstrate empathy through role modelling
Your children see almost everything you do. If you respond to difficult situations with empathy, this will normalise those behaviours and they will learn to do the same. So, instead of walking away from that temper tantrum, stay calm and talk your child through it.
2. Build a solid foundation to work from
When children have a positive, secure attachment to their parents, they are more likely to show empathy toward others. When your child has something on their mind, discuss it and how it made them feel. Use examples from a time something similar happened to you and how you dealt with it.
3. Help them learn how to identify their feelings
Empathy is all about understanding and responding appropriately to the feelings of others, but you have to be able to identify your own feelings first. When you or your child is extremely happy, or experiences a difficult situation, identify and label those feelings (positive and negative). This will mean your child learns to connect feelings and words with emotional reactions.
4. Give your child greater responsibilities
With greater responsibilities comes more empathy and care. Give your child a specific job, like caring for a small pet for example. When children learn to be responsible, they learn to think about others.
5. Encourage all opportunities to learn a critical life skill
Teach your children to Stop-Think-Act:
- Stop: Assess the situation and determine the problem.
- Think: Consider possible solutions to the problem.
- Act: Choose the best option and put it into action.
When children know how to solve problems, they are more likely to help a friend or family member.
Trinity’s Pastoral Care guidelines focus on the fundamentals of good parenting — providing both care and discipline — enabling boys to grow into self-confident, trustworthy and resilient young men. Combined with an ongoing partnership between the School and home, your son will thrive in a consistent, caring and nurturing environment.
For over a century, Trinity has been nurturing and encouraging boys from Pre-Kindergarten to Year 12 to grow in mind, body and spirit. To discover the Trinity difference, and how we help boys to realise their potential, passion and purpose, register for our Open Day.