Teaching empathy to kids is not as simple as many people think. Being a good role model is helpful but we also should be pro-active in helping our kids to understand how people feel. We generally use empathy to mean more than just feeling others emotions. We want to ask our kids how others feel so they can be in touch with others without trying to hide from it. We can also ask them to make the facial expression of how another person might feel. This helps them internalize how others experience their emotions.
- Positive parenting helps children feel secure, which in turn enables them to become sympathetic helpers.
- Shame can make us withdrawn, while guilt causes us to want to make amends.
- Young children can be taught to improve their face reading skills, which will help them with empathy.
“The development of affective empathy depends, in part, on a child’s experiences — how people communicate with her; what kinds of social relationships she has; whether we help her cope with shared emotions that feel unpleasant or overwhelming.”