1. Parents can demonstrate empathy toward the child and serve as a model of empathy for others. Empathizing with your child builds trust and a desire in the child to adopt the values that empathy demonstrates. When parents guide their children toward activities they believe their child will enjoy based on their personalities, they demonstrate an appreciation and understanding of their child as unique and valued.
Children also learn by watching and listening to how parents interact with others in public. How are you treating that waitress who brought you cold coffee? How do you treat your spouse when you are disappointed in an outcome? Children are learning from your responses to both positive and negative events. Taking time to process events with your child at the proper developmental level further helps to create a bond between you.
It is simpler to demonstrate empathy toward people who are already like us. Stretch the child a bit more by demonstrating how to show empathy toward those who are different. My family, for example, periodically visited a mission in Chicago to sing and serve the participants who lived on the streets. I understood early, that everyone has value, even when it is hard to understand based on their life differences. Years later, I recognize people who are different from me as my teachers, and allow them to open my heart and perspective.
2. Parents want their children to experience happiness. With happiness as a focus, it often becomes an exercise in giving children more things. Helping children to focus on others regularly gives the child more practice with empathy, and with practice, builds an intrinsic sense of happiness. Noting positively a child's attempts at practicing empathy reinforces the action in the child. Encourage children to discuss their own feelings and how they perceive another person may feel in given situations. Reminding children that "we are all in this together" can blur our human divisions and cut a swath toward empathy.
Remember that children are still learning their tolerances for disappointment and frustration, and this can be overwhelming. Continue to be open with children about their feelings without judgment, and in time they will develop the self-control to manage their emotions constructively and maintain empathy toward those who may be causing some of the tensions.
My hope is to raise children who become ethical adults, those who can lead others into a world where people care about each other. Understanding another person's perspective with compassion makes for peaceful interactions. Our world needs this now more than ever.
If you liked this article, please share it with parents and caregivers you may know. Any questions about how you can practice empathy at home or in the workplace, please direct to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read great articles and videos on Next Page Coaching's Facebook page that support the dignity and worth of all people.
Thank you for taking the time here.