One of the most valuable character traits we can teach children is how to have empathy. From entrepreneurship to charity work and everything in between, empathy is one of the best skills for adults to have as they grow into their calling. No matter what they do with their life, your child will benefit greatly from learning empathy early. Here are some ways to start teaching your child empathy!
1. Give them language to identify feelings
Long after you first hear your child murmur the words “mama” or “dada,” they still need your help to develop their vocabulary. As they continue to experience new emotions throughout each stage of development, you need to equip them with words to identify and describe what they feel. Start with basics, like happy, mad, and sad, and branch out from there as they learn and grow! Point out when you notice them expressing certain emotions, like “I can tell you’re sad you can’t have ice cream right now.” Another way to teach them language for identifying their feelings is to verbally express your own emotions throughout the day.
2. Acknowledge & meet their emotional needs
Parenting is a hard job, and sometimes it’s a miracle to get through the day just keeping bellies full. Still, making sure your child’s emotional needs get met is crucial for teaching them empathy. Display understanding for how they are feeling, and describe how you are helping them meet those emotional needs as you do so. For example, noticing your child is getting angry mid-morning, and saying “You seem to be getting angry. Sometimes when I’m hungry I get angry too. Why don’t we go get a snack and see if that helps you feel better?”
3. Learn your child’s love language
Knowing the love languages of everyone in your family can be a huge step toward empathy! Read the book if you have the time, or check out some podcasts done by the author of The 5 Love Languages to learn more about how they work. Take the assessment for your child, and try to learn to love them well using that information. Speaking their love language to them will help them feel valued, and as they get older, they will learn other people have different love languages and need to be loved in different ways. This is a great example of how empathy works in general!
Now, you are ready to help your child learn core skills to develop empathy!