Empathy, or being able to distinguish someone else's feelings from your own, is a hard skill even for some adults. It can be especially hard for kiddos, and even harder for kiddos with special needs or learning differences. Here are 4 easy ways to teach your children about empathy.
Treat your kiddos like they have a mind of their own... because they do!
A simple way to start teaching about empathy is to acknowledge your kiddos feelings, even over the silliest things. You don't have to agree with an action or given in to a tantrum, but a simple phrase such as, "I know your upset..." or "I know that's scary..." lets your children know you are listening. It also sets them up to recognize emotions in others based on your example.
Use everyday routines and situations to teach about emotions and sympathetic feelings.
Using everyday routines like going to the store, reading a story, or playing with friends can be a huge opportunity for kids to learn about others emotions. For example, if your kiddo is at a play date and a friend trips, falls, and starts crying, take time with your kiddo to explain why their friend is crying. Did the fall scare their friend? Did it hurt? If your kiddo is old enough, you can even ask how they would feel if they had fallen down, then have them compare their emotions to their friends.
Help kids learn what they have in common in others.
Kiddos are more likely to acknowledge someone else's feelings when they share something in common with them. For kids, this can be what toys do they like to play with, who's their favorite superhero, what's their favorite color? Simple things in common go a long way!
Practice making faces with your kiddos! Children can learn to recognize emotions in others based off their facial expressions, so practicing sad, happy, and mad faces is an easy way to start! For older kiddos or kiddos with learning differences, you can even work on more complex emotions like surprise, frustration, and nervousness.