Empathy. Some kids have it in abundance, but some kids struggle with the idea, particularly when they are younger. So how to help kids learn empathy? In counselling, we have been taught that empathy is walking in another man’s shoes. It is very different from sympathy, which is, according to Google:
“Feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.”
Sympathy is an emotion that has more negative connotations as it suggests pity for someone less fortunate than yourself. Empathy is much more about sharing understanding and caring for someone’s predicament without feeling sorry for them. It allows us to “hold” that person and make them feel safe, often without judgement. It is a complex skill for adult, but do not despair, there are ways that we can help children to learn empathy from a young age. Another idea from Joanna Fortune’s book around 15 minute parenting activities for 0-7 year olds help with this, and we are sharing it with you today.
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So what can we do?
When something is fun it becomes appealing and that gives young children a positive association with it. Here are some ways that you can build empathy – teaching moments into your parenting when your kids are little.
- Collect some large stones when you are out for a walk. Wash them when at home and once they are dried you can engage your child in painting them. Once dry they can be gifted as paper weights to neighbours/family members,
- Plant a seed with your child. Each day they must take care of and nurture their seed as it grows into a flower or plant. This gives them something to do each day and you can praise their kindness and thoughtfulness,
- Let your child see you randomly leave some money on a
parking machine or a vending machine so that somebody can benefit,
- Let your child see you pay for an extra beverage when you are in the café and say that it is for the next person or for somebody who might need it that day,
- Have your child help you pack care packages and then go with them to drop them off at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen,
- Encourage your child to re-gift toys to children in shelters/orphanages or to buy a new toy for a child who is less well off,
- Let your child see you hold doors open for people coming behind you,
- When with your child, stop to ask someone with heavy bags or full hands if they would like some help,
- Involve your child in making breakfast in bed for a family member, and
- Always say please and thank you to your child – even if this is ‘Please don’t hit my foot with your truck.’
FINALLY: Remember to smile when you see your child so that they know you are happy to see them, no matter what else has been going on in the day.
To get this as a printable all you need to do is click on the circular image below.
Thanks for coming and seeing this checklist, and following some of the ideas in here too.
Why not check out some of the other activities on our site about emotions and feelings?
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