“I came into the living room to find my older son was sad about something and being comforted by his little brother, normally it is the other way around (if anything!)”. This story really demonstrates the true power of empathy. According to McKinsey & Opal Academy Empathy is one of the top four soft skills of the future. 

What is Empathy?

Have you ever had someone who felt the same as you even if they are not in the same situation? Did they feel they are in the same shoes as you? That person has a strong sense of empathy

Apart from understanding how somebody else is feeling, empathy is also the ability to respond with care in the given situation. So, all in all, it is a very complex skill. There are three kinds/levels of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate.

  • Cognitive empathy means only understanding how somebody else is feeling, such as a child understands that a friend is sad for getting a bad mark. It’s the ability to see things from somebody else’s perspective.
  • Emotional empathy means sharing the feeling of another person, that is the child understands that the friend is sad and feels sad as well.
  • Compassionate empathy means not only sheering the feeling but also readiness to help in the given situation, that is the child is sad for the friend’s bad mark and is ready to help the friend with a task/homework, etc

Why is it important to show empathy?

Empathy is essential for your child’s emotional and social development. It helps your child develop his/her social skills & build long lasting relationships that will attribute to your child’s future success. For example, if a child has a sense of empathy, not only he won’t bully other children but will defend that child from bullies as well. It will help the child make true friends and later have a good relationship with colleagues at work.

Examples of Kids Empathy

If you are still wondering about a child’s sense of empathy, have a look at the following list of examples:

  • He/she is sad when the friend gets a bad mark and tries to help with a task/homework.
  • He/she is worried when the sibling/friend is ill and offers a toy/hug.
  • He/she understands that mum is angry for the mess and tries to clear it up.
  • He/she feels that a parent is nervous and hugs the parent.

Acquiring a high-level of empathy on the three cognitive, emotional, and compassionate levels can mean success now and in the future for your child.

Let’s say your child successful practiced empathy with people around him, the results can be quite astonishing:

  1. Your child will make more friends & deeper connections with others
  2. These connections will increase your child’s self-esteem 
  3. On top of that, with a greater number of friends, comes more social interactions and opportunities to develop your child’s soft skills by practice.

How can you support developing your child’s empathy?

Empathy is to be cherished and developed. It is one of the hardest emotional skills to acquire, and you should encourage and support your child to develop it. There are many ways you can support empathy and contribute to children’s emotional development, including:

Tell a story

You can let your child imagine that the family dog suddenly went away from home.  Ask them: “how do you think the dog felt?” Read stories about feelings (I Am Happy: A Touch and Feel Book of Feelings)

Lead by example

If you show empathy to others, it is more likely that your child will behave the same way. So, if you want your child to develop empathy skills, the best way is to bring up your child in a similar environment.

Explain emotions to your child 

If your child knows and can recognize emotions, it will be easier to show empathy and respond with care. You can help your child identify facial expressions and body language as well. You can do it by showing flashcards or images of faces with different emotions (you can even use emoji’s).

Bonus

Take some time to learn more about empathy and other children soft skills that will help them stand out. A great way to start can be this free email course on children soft skills.

As a takeaway, we’ve put together a simple visual guide on how you can support your child’s empathy skills:

Sources:

https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/resources-for-families/5-tips-cultivating-empathy

https://takecasper.com/2020/06/empathy-1/

https://sunshine-parenting.com/empathy/