The question that has bothered scientists lately is the one that concerns empathy. Is it an inherent quality, or do we imbibe it from our surroundings? According to some studies, the likely answer is both.
Children who are empathic are very much from their own feelings and are able to gauge the emotions of others also. They are also able to differentiate their own feelings from the feelings of others. Children are born with empathic feelings but take time to learn and develop it.
Development of empathy is not such a simple process. It has its roots in infancy and it takes years for it to mature. Children learn to offer help to those in need from a very young age. Research even shows that children as young as 14 months offer to help an adult who is struggling to reach something.
Empathy is an important skill which is necessary for success in personal, relationship and career matters. Empathic people tend to have better social interactions, academic performance and accomplishments at work than those who don’t.
If the skill of empathy is strong in a child, s/he will be able to resist the negative peer pressure, addiction habits, bullying, narcissism, aggression and violence against others. It also keeps your child away from any emotional or behavioral problems which might come later in life.
Strategies for Raising Empathic Children
1. Responsible parents
Parents, who are responsive to the needs of their babies, impart the value of empathy since a very tender age. A child learns from his/her parents and if they make sure that s/he is getting proper emotional support and physical affection then the child will learn to readily offer help to others.
2. Full spectrum of emotions
Children need to be taught that all emotions should be expressed in a healthy manner. A child who is not allowed to cry or express anger, s/he will develop issues as a grown up individual. They need to be taught the value of every emotions and the way of its expression.
3. Naming their feelings
Identifying and labeling the emotions is quite helpful when it comes to organizing the emotional world in a child’s mind. Happiness and sadness and primary ones, but children need to know about frustration, fear, nervousness etc.
4. Role playing
Kids can learn empathy from role playing. You can actually make them believe that they hurt a doll’s feeling because they didn’t share their food with it. This is a way to make them connect with their empathic side and to understand the consequences of their actions.
5. Similarities and differences
According to studies, it is easier to empathize when we see similarities between ourselves and others. Likewise, differences also make them think whether they should be emphatic or not.
6. Modeling empathy
Parents and teachers can model sympathy in children. They can show interest in other person’s misfortunes or outburst and try to learn the reasons behind it. Reflecting and asking questions to your child about their feelings can prove to be really beneficial down the road.
On the contrary, parents who punish their children are actually making them more aggressive and alienated from the act of empathy.
7. Reading and games
According to studies, reading books can help in gaining empathic behavior in children. Identifying with the characters is a great way to learn it! Similar can be said for playing games.
8. Volunteer work
Make your children volunteer for social work because this will teach them the value of lending a helping hand to those in need. This will also make them understand the value of gratitude.