Parenting Tip of the Week – Talking About Empathy

You know to model the behavior you want in your child. But how do you talk to them about empathy and having understanding for other people? Try some of these tricks to help engage with your child at any age.

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We know that it can be challenging to talk about esoteric subjects like empathy and compassion. However, studies show these challenges are worth it: asking these kind of questions can teach children about the way other people work and think, teaching them to better navigate the world around them. Here are some suggestions to make broaching the subject easier.

Take advantage of the examples in every day media

Empathy is rooted in recognizing and understanding the perspective of another. Fortunately, there are Use examples in your everyday life and media to explore different perspectives with your child. For instance, the next time you are watching a movie or cartoon with your child, discuss the different motives and actions of the different characters. What are they thinking or feeling?

If you are interested in learning more about using media to help teach your children about empathy, Common Sense Media has you covered. This database of films and TV shows is broken down by developmental level, helping you find the right choice for your children.

Use hypothetical scenarios and role playing

Try using hypothetical scenarios to explore compassion and empathy with your child. For a younger child, ask them what they would do or think at recess if they saw one person standing alone and looking sad. For an older child, you can use some more serious examples. What would they do or think if they saw a homeless person in the street? Make sure to not only ask what your child’s reaction would be, but why they would react that way as well. Use these conversations or examples to begin discussions with your child about your values.

These methods are even finding their way into classrooms, as well. In one experiment, children wore heavy goggles and clothing in order to simulate the difficulties faced by the elder. Afterwards, the research proved that the children who participated were more empathetic and understanding of the elderly.

As Atticus Finch famously said to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Try using these suggestions to help teach empathy to your child so they too learn to consider things from all points of view.

Do you have other ideas about how to talk to your children about empathy? Let us know by tweeting us @PCAAmerica or by leaving a comment on our Facebook page!