During preschool and kindergarten years, children are generally expected to learn their numbers and letters.
While these are admirable goals to strive for, are there other ‘soft skills’ that children can practice during these formative years?
Yes! Traits such as empathy, grit or cooperation are also developed at a young age and in the long-term, are just as important as learning to count from 1-10.
Empathy in particular seems like a difficult concept to teach a 3-year old. Fortunately there are ways you can incorporate empathy into your everyday family routine to help your child understand what it means to be empathetic.
From Jessica Lahey at the New York Times, we invite you to try these 5 ideas to help your child develop empathy:
1. “Empathize with your child and model how to feel compassion for others.”
You are your child’s first teacher. Be more empathetic and your children will too!
2. “Make caring for others a priority and set high ethical expectations.”
How do you care for others? If you make empathy a priority in the family, your child will understand what is and is not acceptable behavior.
3. “Provide opportunities for children to practice.”
Children learn through repetition. It may not be enough to have just one conversation about empathy. Consistently speak about how others may feel during play time, at the dinner table, or before bed.
4. “Expand your child’s circle of concern.”
Volunteering to help those in need will help your child empathize with people outside of their family circle. Look for opportunities in your community to volunteer your time, even if it’s just 30 minutes.
5. “Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively.”
Read books, speak often about emotions, and help your child develop coping skills for big feelings like anger or frustration. Model how you cope with feelings by narrating your responses, “I’m frustrated that I can’t open this jar, I’m going to put it down for now and take a few breaths.”
Turns out you CAN practice empathy using the ideas above. Start incorporating them at home to create a more empathetic and harmonious household.
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