In our world of 24/7 connectivity, the concept of kindness and understanding the real emotions of others can get lost in translation – or lost in emojis. We are going to tackle a tough parenting topic today. Teaching empathy.
A recent survey of 2,500 respondents, conducted by Sesame Workshop, indicated that many parents (70%) and teachers (86%) often worry about their children growing up in a world that is unkind for children. Those are scary numbers, folks. If the internet disintegrated today, we would still have to live with our fellow humans. Therefore, understanding and acknowledging how people feel is important. It helps one feel valued and appreciated. This type of validation allows us to know that we are not alone in the way we are feeling.
How do you teach empathy? This is tough stuff. As an example, in our house, we like to keep it simple. We teach empathy through modeling behaviors. For example, if our toddler strikes either of us, we show her an emotion to help her understand that the action did not feel good. Additionally, we explain in a calm fashion that she hurt us and that does not make us feel good.
Lately, using these modeling behaviors has allowed our little one to show her emotions and allow us to respond by showing her empathy. If she slips and falls, she generally cries. Often times she will exclaim, “Nadia is crying.” We show her empathy by communicating our feelings about her fall and attempt to comfort her. This is a hard concept to quantify using the written word, so allow the Muppets and Mark Ruffalo to illustrate it in a better way.
To sum things up, it’s important to be diligent about teaching our kids the “right stuff”. Empathy is integral to the social-emotional well-being of our children. Teaching empathy can be difficult, but the only thing it costs is your time. As a result, parents will be rewarded handsomely in the currency of kind, thoughtful children who are considerate of other’s feelings.
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