Crying Girl and Adult with helping hand

Empathy is a life skill that children need to know. Some children naturally have it and others don’t seem to. If the latter is the case it needs to be taught. Children need to understand other people’s feelings and how to act appropriately towards those feelings. I have been asked to help children to be more empathetic and more often than not, that involves input from mum or dad. It is important that they are involved as we need parents modelling empathy to their children. Parents can do this by acknowledging and valuing others’ feelings, and showing understanding and sympathy when someone is sad or upset, frustrated etc.

Parents Modelling Empathy

They can also:

  • Talk to their children about different feelings and how they can support people with those feelings. How can they be empathetic? What can they say to people who are sad, upset or going through a bad time? What can they do to help? Could they offer to help? Could they offer solutions or just a listening ear?
  • They can empathise when their own children are feeling sad or frustrated so the children get the chance to experience how empathy feels. Children like to be heard and their thoughts and feelings not dismissed.
  • They can notice when their child exhibits empathy and comment on it. Or, if there is lack of it shown in a tv show discuss why there wasn’t any empathy. Talking about a tv show can teach children so many wonderful things.
  • They can role model empathy to each other – hugging or comforting the other partner when they need it.

These are just a few ideas on how parents can model empathy to their child. We cannot expect children to be empathic if they haven’t experienced it or seen it themselves. What  else would you add to these suggestions?

For help raising an empathetic child and other life skills you would like your child to have check out The Parent’s Toolkit.