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How can I teach my children about empathy?
Empathy is a super important ability to establish healthy and assertive communication and affective relationships.
In the work of educating our children we must teach them skills like this to enhance their social development and train people who contribute positively to their environment.
It is common that as parents we do not know what is the best way to teach empathy to our children or that we wonder if this ability simply improves with the years.
And it will indeed improve with the development of your child, but you must teach him all the time how to be more empathetic with those around him. We present techniques to teach your child empathy from home.
What is empathy?
Empathy is the ability to identify and recognize the emotions and experiences of others even if we do not share them.
This is made up of two elements, a cognitive one that refers to thoughts and an affective one that refers to feelings and emotions.
So those empathic people have the ability to recognize both the thoughts and emotions of other people and respond according to this perception.
Empathy as we have said is a learned skill, we must cultivate it and teach it to our children so that they understand and practice it.
That is why it is important that as adults we also know that empathy is, typically phrases such as "empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of the other" are heard and this saying helps us to understand practically how it works.
This phrase refers to being able to think about the experience of the other in order to understand them, to read both their verbal and non-verbal language to identify their emotions.
From what age does empathy develop?
Children in their early stages do not have the capacity to be empathetic, since their own development does not allow them, however it is important that we instill in them emotional education in the same way.
In the first years of life, children are learning to differentiate themselves from their mother as individuals and understanding the world around them, so empathy develops from the age of 3.
This is a social skill that is established in the child's contact with adults and in social relationships with peers. Children do not understand the concept of empathy from theory, they understand it from practice, with direct contact and reinforcement.
The main way of learning for children is through imitation and modeling, in the case of empathy, mirror neurons play a fundamental role.
These are responsible for the construction of our social life, since from them, we attribute their own characteristics to other humans who perform actions similar to us.
In other words, as we feel, we assume that other people also feel, and this is the basis of empathy, being able to identify how others feel and think.
How to teach our children about empathy?
Be their example to follow: This is always a fundamental point in teaching, for children we are their example and their guide, if you want your child to be empathetic, you should see yourself being empathic with both him and others.
Call emotions by name: A good way to start teaching children empathy is by helping them recognize their own emotions, otherwise they won't be able to identify them in anyone else. When your child is feeling sad or upset, tell him to acknowledge that he is feeling sad and that you are there for him. Reinforce each time your child manages to identify his own emotions and show him that they are valuable.
Use everyday activities to teach: Casual interaction brings with it a wide opportunity to teach your child about emotions, when they see someone on the street or on television help them identify what emotions they are feeling based on their verbal language and not verbal.
You can ask him how he thinks others feel in specific situations, for example if he does not want to share his toys he can ask how do you think your friend feels when you do not want to share your toys with him?
And thus lead him to think about the feelings of others and how they are affected by his actions.
Help him understand empathy from actions, reinforce each time he manages to identify his own emotions as well as those of others and motivate him to think about what he can do to support.