As a parent, teaching kids how to be empathetic can be very tricky. To some degree, it is a trait that a person is born with or without, but there is something to be said about the way that kids are raised. When you help kids to learn about the world around them and how to be a caring person, it can help to impart empathy in them. Kids learn by example and the people that they are most influenced by are their parents, which means that you need to be very cognizant of your actions.
How you can Help
• Show Empathy – Chances are you have been showing your child empathy since the moment he or she was born. When you pick up your crying baby, tend to a scraped toddler’s knee and listen to a broken hearted teenager, you are showing empathy without even realizing it! This type of empathy comes natural for most parents.
• Teaching Feelings – Most feelings are learned as your children navigate their path in life, but as a parent, you can help them put those feelings into words by teaching them adjectives that describe how they feel and what to do with those feelings.
• Be Forgiving – It can be very difficult to be forgiving, even to a child. In most cases, however, children do not mean to intentionally hurt you or someone else. Using cases such as this as a learning experience, rather than a time for punishment, can help a child learn empathy. When you teach your child why their actions were hurtful to someone, they will learn not to be that way and will understand the meaning of being nice to others.
• Help Others – Try to teach your child about the world around them. Kids can easily get self-centered and forget about the others that make up their world. You know what your child can and cannot handle experiencing. You can simply talk to your child about others that are less fortunate than them or you can show them in person, either way, you can drive home the need to help others that are less fortunate than them.
• Talk About your Experiences – Talk to your child about your own life experiences. If there was a time that you helped someone in need or simply helped a sad friend, explain the situation to your child to let him or her see how you are empathetic and what it looks like.
• Do not Spread Yourself Thin – There is a fine line between being empathetic and trying to do too much. You do not need to go overboard to try to teach your child empathy. When you do small, simple tasks, it is enough to show your kids how to care about others.
If you want to raise confident, happy and empathetic kids, it all starts at home. How you act around your children as well as what you teach them will play a role in the adults that they grow up to be. In my latest book, “Cheerleader Abby and the Cheerleader Competition,” one of my favorite characters, Abby, comes back for a cheerleading competition! In it one of her friends has a difficult time. Come along on the journey as Abby shows kids how good it feels to be empathetic and help others, even when they are achieving their own dreams!