Writing their name, tying their shoes, making their bed, there’s lots of things parents begin to teach their children during the preschool and early elementary years. And while things like learning to read are a big part of those experiences, there’s an even bigger lesson to teach our kids: the ability to share someone else’s feelings and react with kindness or empathy.
As a mom and former teacher, I’ve seen first hand the importance of intentionally guiding children and teaching character traits, not just academics. Parents have a responsibility to help form their kids values and personalities. I don’t think anyone starts out thinking they’ll raise a bully or insensitive person but take a look around the world for five minutes and you’ll see that’s what has happened. Never have we needed empathy training for our families like we do now.
In a nutshell, empathy training involves teaching our kids to be mindful of others and in control of themselves. Empathy is a learned skill and something adults have to be intentional about instructing children about. Now, before you throw your hands up in exasperation at one more thing added to the never ending to do list that is mom life, you may already be doing several of the these suggestions and they’re all relatively easy to incorporate in your daily routine.
Here’s 5 Ways to Teach Empathy to Kids
Thank You Notes
Taking time to express gratitude and acknowledge the thought someone put into giving you a gift is a simple way to help children recognize the effort expended on their behalf. Encourage your kids to express why they liked the present and discuss how someone else’s thoughtfulness was special to them. I’ve even got some FREE Printable Birthday Thank You Notes to make it easy for you!
Dropping the kids off for a beach clean up day isn’t a bad thing but research proves that families who serve together make more of lasting impression on their child’s character than those who leave the community service solely to the kids. Spending time working towards a common good helps your child understand the value of giving back and prioritizing the needs of others. For more ideas about family volunteering, be sure to see our post about Raising Kids Who Serve Others.
It’s a skill to be able to read other people. Pointing out facial expressions or body language of characters in books, movies, or even commercials are quick and simple ways to develop your child’s capabilities. Encouraging young ones to master nonverbal cues and reading emotions is a skill that will serve a person well their entire life. Take a peek at this short video with a powerful message. This story is part of the larger “Someone Needs One” program, in which Kleenex® brand is challenging people to be more aware of overlooked, everyday opportunities to show that they care.
Believe it or not, kids who have a regular set of responsibilities to their family tend to be more caring and altruistic towards others. Lending a hand in the upkeep of the house and yard not only instills a great work ethic but also makes life less about oneself and gives a sense of working towards a common goal. Check out this post about The Importance of Chores for Children (Printable Chore Chart).
Little eyes are always watching and when your server makes a mistake on your order or your spouse forgets to pick up the dry cleaning, the way you react says volumes to your kids. Extending grace and easily forgiving blunders demonstrates care and concern. When your children see you treat others kindly, it becomes a natural part of their lives to do the same.
When I’m shopping for school supplies, I pick up a couple extra boxes of my favorite tissues from Kleenex®. I appreciate the large sized boxes because as a former teacher, I know firsthand the importance of quality tissues when cold or allergy season hits the classroom. Not to mention, these new designs are just so whimsical and perfect for my daughter’s Kindergarten class!
I really love the small, individual packs of Kleenex®, too. They’re so convenient for kids to keep in their backpack or supply box.
In the interest of helping kids better observe and discover everyday opportunities to care for others, Kleenex® brand sponsored a social experiment and workshop through the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Check out their brief video and see if you don’t wind up with goosebumps and full of emotion like I was! I felt so proud of these soon to be middle schoolers and appreciated the reminder that when we share our feelings with one another, we’re stronger!
As plugged in parents, we do a good job at helping our kids practice sports, spelling words, and math facts. Let’s not forget to get focused on character and practice empathy in our childrearing, too.
We’ve got a fabulous list of the best Childrens Books That Teach Empathy and be sure to find out Why You Need to Fail at Parenting, it’ll change your perspective for sure!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.