How to develop empathy in children and why it is important

2021.08.31

It is great when children (and adults) are able to relate to the feelings of people around them who are in need. This ability is called “empathy” and many parents want to raise their children with a sense of “empathy”. In this article, we will explain the importance of empathy and how to help your child develop it.

子どもの共感力を育てよう! 重要性と育て方について

What does empathy look like? Why is it important?

Empathy refers to the ability to imagine how the other person feels or the ability to communicate by recognizing that your thoughts and feelings are different from theirs.

In order to develop empathy, it is necessary to understand all types of emotions (not only joy, sadness, and anger but also frustration, anxiety, guilt, self-esteem and disappointment). Teaching our children about all these emotions one by one will help them develop the ability to sense what others are feeling and empathize with them.

Below are some of the benefits of developing empathy in children.

Ability to act compassionately

People who are empathetic can look at things from the other person’s perspective. This means that they are able to act compassionately when the other person is in trouble, distressed, or angry. This kind of empathy is useful in relationships throughout life.

Ability to share and enjoy other’s joy

Children who are empathetic can share their friend’s joy which is very important for building camaraderie and relationships.

Ability to expand their relationships

People with empathy can say and do things from the other person’s point of view, which facilitates communication. This helps them expand and strengthen their relationships with others.

How to develop empathy in children?

Empathy is a very important part of building relationships. How can we help our children develop empathy? Here are some tips on how to help your child develop empathy.

Help them imagine how the other person feels

When children are young, it is hard for them to distinguish between their own feelings and those of others. Therefore, it is helpful when parents encourage their children to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and think about how their friend feels. It is often effective to use characters from cartoons or picture books as well as people around you. This will help them learn to empathize with those around them.

Encourage them by explaining their feelings in words

When parents express their children’s feelings in words it helps them develop empathy towards others. Here are some phrases parents can use: “you were sad because your toy was taken away” or “you were frustrated because you couldn’t do what you wanted to do”.

Use pretend play

During pretend play, children play various roles and occupations which helps them imagine how people in different positions feel. Learning how to understand others through play will help them develop empathy.

Giving your child plenty of opportunities to interact with others is a great way to help them develop empathy. Attending a preschool and/or other extracurricular activities is one way to help your child learn how to interact with their peers. In preschool, your child will learn about other people’s ideas, values, and emotions by interacting with their peers and teachers. In this environment, they can also experience being empathized with when they express their feelings in an appropriate manner. Communicating in this way, will help your child’s mind grow and help them naturally acquire empathy.

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