Updated: Feb 28
5 Ways to Create More Empathetic Children
Are you a parent that wants to cultivate a sensitive side to your child? Monkey see monkey do in these 5 ways to create more empathetic children.
As a parent, you've got the most important job in the world- to create happy, healthy children ready to take on life. It's a tall order, especially if your children struggle with emotions or behavior.
Empathy is a critical aspect of what is referred to as emotional intelligence (or EQ). This is merely an academic phrase for how we measure a person's awareness of others' feelings. But how can you instill the value of empathy in your child, especially when you've got so much going on already? Not to worry, it's easier than you think.
If you're interested in cultivating empathetic children, remember that learning starts at home. After all, monkey see, monkey do.
Read on for 5 easy ways you can help create an empathetic child!
1. Talk With Your Children, Not At Them
As adults, we tend to struggle when it comes to communicating with our children. After all, communication is the key to a healthy relationship, no matter the situation. Finding the balance between protector, friend, and disciplinarian is tough, no doubt. So what's the best way to approach your child?
One of the simplest ways to create empathetic children is to make sure you're not talking down to them. It's time to learn how to talk to your children in a way that helps your children feel heard, validated, and understood.Psychology suggests that open communication and talking with your child leads to the development of healthy children.
By talking with your child instead of at them, you'll be able to encourage more open and honest dialogue. Recognize that your child is still ultimately a human being. They'll need to learn how to interact with people, and they're going to struggle. If you can foster an open relationship, you'll likely have a stronger relationship. This can make all the difference when it comes to adolescence.
Think back to when you were a child: you likely wanted to appear far older than you were. Nothing shuts down a child's engagement faster than an adult treating them like a baby. Remember, kids are practically looking for a reason to tune you out. Speak to them in a soft, steady voice.
2. Empathetic Children Learn From Empathetic Parents
It's well-known that our relationships with our parents tend to shape how we view the world. Since you have such a wonderful and unique opportunity, practice EQ whenever possible.
Frustrated with traffic? Instead of honking and flipping off that driver who cut you off, think of it as a learning experience. You have the unique opportunity to show your children how emotions should be handled. Did you have a tough day at work? Talk to your children about it. Let them know what you're feeling and why you're feeling it. This will teach them about situational emotions and how to handle them in an effective way.
You can instill empathetic behavior through your children's situations, too. In fact, it may prove to be easier.
Maybe the shoe is on the other foot and your child had a bad day at school. This is when that open dialogue from Tip 1 comes in handy. Comfort them and ask them what happened and how they feel. Discuss the problem and let them know that it's okay to be upset and have bad days. Empathetic kids know that emotions are normal and a healthy part of life. This normalizes emotions, so they'll be more likely to properly handle their feelings later on.
3. Watch TV And Consume Media With Them
Media literacy is a huge part of being an effective parent, especially in the age of YouTube and tablets. It can be hard to keep track of what your child is watching, so make sure you're consuming media with them as opposed to your children having unsupervised and extended time alone with media devices.
Maybe it's as simple as reading to your child before bed, or as complex as a tough discussion after a movie. Whatever the case, make sure you're aware of the types of media your child consumes and how it affects them. You can use media as a teaching tool. And it doesn't matter what age your child is, it's a tool that works!
If a younger child is watching a cartoon where a character reacts violently, discuss it. Ask them how they feel about the reaction and whether or not they think it was appropriate. Or if your child is an adolescent and you're watching an action or drama, discuss the situation of the show. Believe it or not, media is a great way to start a discussion.
Take Netflix's recent hit 13 Reasons Why, for example. It's a heavy show that may not be appropriate for all ages, but it's sparked dozens of discussions about mental health.
The biggest takeaway here is to pay attention. Empathetic kids can discern fantasy from reality, but they also see the merit in fiction.
4. Practice Active Listening
Here's a great way to teach your kids about being empathetic: just listen to them.
Active listening is a tool commonly used in counseling and talk therapy, but you can use it at home too. The concept is simple enough. You listen and pay attention to what the other person has to say. Yes, that's all it takes.
By showing kids that listening is more important than talking, they'll learn to pay attention to what others have to say. Practice this with your children in your everyday conversations. When responding, use specifics, that way they'll know you actually hear what they have to say.
After all, empathetic behavior is about showing you understand how others feel. That includes your kids.
5. Discuss Conflicts
If you have several children, you know how often kids tend to fight. It's unavoidable. But you can use these small spats to talk to your kids about appropriate reactions and behaviors. After you've broken up an argument, let all parties settle down. Then, bring them back together and discuss the conflict.
Conflict resolution is a huge part of learning how to be empathetic. Be sure you're showing your kids how to handle disputes. Try and get them to understand each others' perspectives. It'll be tough, but raising empathetic children is important.
Empathetic behavior is important for any child at any age. Be sure that you're setting a great example by following these tips!