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Parenting tips: How to develop empathy in kids

Empathy is the ability to understand/feel other people’s emotions and empathy helps us form healthy relationships hence, this is one of the skills that need to be developed by parents in their children right from a very young age. Studies have time and again indicated that childhood experiences and the way children are raised have long-lasting effects on the adults they grow up to and following conscious and informed ways of instilling important values during childhood is a good start in laying a strong foundation for shaping well-rounded personalities in children.

Empathy is one such core value that should be encouraged in children from early stages in life in classrooms, campuses and in the world around us. Developing a sense of empathy is an important developmental process for young children, which is tremendously beneficial to them not only in childhood but well into their adulthood too.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Sudarshan Vig, Co-Founder and CEO of MerlinWand, shared, “A well known fact is that kids emulate the behavioural and emotional aspects of the grown ups they interact with, in most cases, their parents. As parents, we can make sure we consciously empathise and reason them verbally or physically, so those foundational aspects are picked up. We should also make sure we are sensitive to their feelings and encourage them to verbalise their feelings often, especially the difficult ones. A very important way to emphasise on empathy is also by educating on other points of view apart from one’s own or to put one in the others’ shoes so to speak.”

Beas Dev Ralhan, CEO of Next Education, suggested, “Being empathetic can enable one to comprehend another individual’s feelings or points of view, rather than relying on one’s own perspective. It is an essential quality when it comes to building and forging social connections and improving the ability to express compassion to fellow beings. Practising empathy can even encourage a child to learn to regulate their own emotions and can render a sense of peace, connection, and a positive perspective on life. An effective way of inculcating any value in children is leading the way by setting an example. Parents and facilitators can encourage children to be empathetic in homes, schools, and communities by practising small daily acts involving kindness and thereby build a culture of compassion. It is imperative that children need to learn to build trust and a sense of belonging for everyone, manage emotions, resolve conflicts peacefully and respectfully, and be able to make responsible decisions that help everyone.”

Deeksha Gautam, PeakMind Expert, advised, “There are a few things that can be done to develop empathy in kids. Talk about feelings – “Are you feeling sad today?” “Your friend is happy to spend time with you”. Model empathy – Kids learn by observing. They notice if we treat someone differently or appreciate someone. Hence, modelling empathy can help kids learn and develop empathy on their selves. Discuss emotions – We must help them in recognizing and dealing with their own emotions. If your kid gets angry real quick, and is unable to manage his/her anger, then teaching simple breathing techniques can be beneficial. At the same time, it is important to normalize difficult emotions, eg, “It’s ok to be sad and cry at times.” Praise and reward empathetic behaviour – A simple pat on the back and “well done” can motivate kids and will increase their chances of repetition of empathetic behaviour. These are some of the tips that we can use in our daily life to develop empathy in kids.”

According to Saurav Kasera, Co-Founder of Clirnet, children are observant, sensitive and alert to things around them hence, developing empathy in them takes an active involvement in their daily lives through these ways:

(1) GOOD SPEECH – Children must be taught that remaining silent is better than speaking hurtfully. So, before they speak, they must carefully organize their thoughts towards solution focused self-expression.

 

(2) LISTENING IS POWER – Children are accustomed to enjoying when right and pointing when someone is wrong. Therefore, making children understand that listening adds to their knowledge is important. They must be shown that listening is empathizing, and empathy is greater than judgement.

(3) SELF-REFLECTION – Instead of pointing out others for their emotional breakdown or behavioural anomalies, children should indulge in thoughtful notes to self. In time, children can learn to view every person’s tragedy from multiple angles rather than between the lens of right and wrong. This happens when self-reflection becomes habitual.

(4) LEADING BY EXAMPLE – Elders often pay less attention to setting examples and spend more time buying children moral textbooks. They must understand that children remember by examples, not by textbooks. So, elders must practice empathy by demonstrating kindness, showing affection, resolving conflicts, apologizing when wrong, sharing gifts, caring for each other, and so on.