HOW TO DEVELOP KINDNESS AND EMPATHY IN YOUR CHILD
Empathy, the ability to understand and have compassion for another person’s experience, is the foundation of being a kind person. Empathy develops slowly during childhood, but even babies have been observed responding to a distressed peer. Children first experience empathy from us. When we nurture them and give them kind, consistent care, we’re laying the foundation for them to have empathy later. We can encourage empathy in our children with the following:
- Respond quickly to your child’s needs. Show empathy for their emotions, e.g., “I’m sorry! I can see you’re feeling sad. Let me help you.”
- Talk with your child about emotions, describing and labeling them. Help your child find solutions for big emotions, e.g., talking, drawing them, getting a hug, or taking a break.
- Model how to show empathy. If you have pets, show your child how to care for them gently. During play, handle baby dolls with care. Let your child see you talking with others kindly.
- Teach skills. Point out how other people are feeling and talk with your child about what to do, e.g., “Mikayla is sad because you knocked her block tower over. Let’s ask her if we can help her build it again. Next time we’ll be very careful.”
- Read picture books that depict kindness and empathy.
AT-HOME KINDNESS ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN
- Volunteer together as a family. Help serve at a soup kitchen, pick up trash at a local park, or plant flowers or trees.
- Have your child make and send cards to a friend or relative who is lonely.
- Ask an older child to read a story to a younger child.
- Take a meal to a sick neighbor.
- Include your child in family jobs. Talk about how having jobs helps the whole family to work together well. Sample jobs could be include feeding the fish, watering the plants, setting the table, unloading the dishwasher, or raking leaves.