Empathy is an important skill for children to learn. That’s right, it is a skill that we need to teach our children. The holidays give us some great opportunities to put those skills into action.
Empathy teaches many things. Children learn helping behaviors when they try to respond to other’s emotions. Empathy breeds kindess. And of course, empathy is a very important factor in friendships.
In order for children to show empathy, they need to understand emotions. That means you need to teach them to recognize their own emotions. When your child is mad, tell them how you know they are mad: “I see that you are stomping your feet and that you are frowning. You look like you are angry.” This is a good time to discuss why they are angry and how to work through those feelings.
There are many books you can read to you child about feelings.
After reading about emotions and feelings, talk about what you read. Try to connect it to their own feelings.
You can also find pictures of different emotions to look at or play a game like Feelings in a Flash. This is a great way to recognize other people’s emotions. Match Master is a matching game like memory. Your child will be able to match the faces and can then talk about what emotion it is.
Our children learn from what they see and hear around them. This means you have the opportunity to show them what empathy looks like. You could even have someone else help you out. For instance, have another adult or older child come into the room looking very sad. This is when you can show how you recognize their feelings and ask how you can help. Involve your child by having them assist you helping this person feel better.
Of course, just by showing empathy every day and recognizing the feeling of others is a great way for them to see empathy in action,
Showing Empathy through Thanksgiving
The month of November is a great way to show all the people in your life how thankful you are for them. In our child care center, we make cards for all the people that help us at our center. The trash man, the FED EX and UPS drivers, our postal workers, etc. We talk about how happy it makes them when we tell them we appreciate them.
You can also sit as a family and take turns telling each other something you are thankful for about each other. Then talk about how it makes you feel when someone says something kind to you.
EMpathy and Christmas
December is the month of giving. What a great thing to teach our children. Many parents will have their children clean out their toys to donate to charities to share with less fortunate families. While that is a wonderful way to share things with other.
Talk about how it must feel to not be able to get new toys or even things that they really want. Talk about how some children are sad or disappointed because their families cannot afford certain things. Then take them shopping and have them pick out some special gifts to give to others. Perhaps find out through your church or school if there is a family in need you can donate directly to rather than to an oragnization.
Check out our Gift Guide for Preschoolers
Look for ways everyday to instill empathy in your child. It is something that will serve them well in life. What is a way you can teach empathy anytime of the year?