Many times if a child seems to lack any empathetic feeling for another person it is because there is something that is keeping them from accessing this very natural quality. Most children are able to be empathetic to others, but such negative emotions as shame, anger, or even envy serve as roadblocks when it comes to feeling empathy for others. It is important to allow kids to realize that empathy is of great importance and to show them how being empathetic towards others can break down certain stereotypes and prejudices towards other people. By showing empathy to others, kids can learn how to interact with others on a deeper and more meaningful level.
Methods for Promoting Empathy
1) Identify their feelings.
Give a name to a child’s more negative feelings such as anger, jealousy, and so on. Let them know what they are feeling is a normal and understandable emotion and then allow them to tell you why they feel this way. This kind of effort will go a long way towards identifying the real problem.
2) Practice the three steps of self-control.
Most adults should know this by now, and by teaching kids you can help them to become rational and more reasonable adults. Those three steps are:
- Take a deep breath and then let it out.
- Count to five, or to ten.
Start teaching these steps when the affect child is still calm. Later on if they appear agitated you can remind them of the steps and practice with them to offer support.
3) Teach them how to resolve conflicts.
Kids aren’t always emotionally equipped to handle conflict, and it is the role of an adult to teach them how to respond. If a child sees a conflict occur and comes to tell you then listen and try to understand their point of view. Act out the conflict by role-playing so that you can give the child a chance to see what people on each side of the conflict might be experiencing. In this manner you can promote empathy.
Most children are born with innate capacity to be empathetic towards others. It’s been seen with many kids that they will seek to help another that seems to be in need without any prompting. As they grow however the need for self-preservation can take over and negate the need to empathize with anyone else. What is important is to teach people when they are young the meaning and importance of empathy.