5 Ways to Encourage Empathy in your Preschooler
Ever consciously thought about how best to provoke discussions of responsibility, compassion, and mindfulness with young children? I think these are all concepts that should be introduced to and instilled in children from a young age so that they don’t depart from such behaviours as they grow up and face the ‘big bad world’.
The ability to share someone else's feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person's situation.
Thinking through the above was just one of the paths that led me to writing Ara Becomes Thundergirl. I wanted to create a fun character that kids could love and relate to; a character and story that could easily become a reference point for easy ways to show kindness to the people around us in and outside of the home.
So here are my 5 top tips for this:
1. Read Books on Emotions together.
This is a great way to:
(i) Help them understand and process their own feelings, and
(ii) Help identify the same emotions in other people and how to react.
Here are some of our favourite children’s books on this topic:
- All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
- Kindness is my Superpower by Alicia Ortego
- You, Me and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders
- I am Human by Susan Verde
- Ara Becomes Thundergirl by Folasayo Williams (did you really think I wouldn't add this to the list? 😉)
2. Model ItAt home, on play dates, while out and about with your Littles, anywhere possible. More is caught than taught - so it is important to let them *see* you help out anyone who needs it. For eg grocery shopping or batch cooking for a sick neighbour, volunteering at a shelter etc
3. Acknowledge their feelings
Happy feelings, sad feelings, angry feelings.
"I know you're sad because xyz happened. I would be sad too if it were me"
"Yayyy, I love to see you so happy - I'm also super excited about xyz.
4. Acknowledge your own feelings
As adults, we've had a lifetime to learn how to regulate our feelings. Children are only just beginning this journey. It's ok to talk about our own sad, angry and happy feelings too, and what we need emotionally. When we do this, we model the behaviour we want them to emulate.
"Mummy/Daddy is a bit frustrated at the moment, can you please be patient with me while I...."
5. Apologise Freely and Often
"Have you eaten?" doesn't count (Where I'm from, in some contexts, this is often code for "I care about you and/or I'm sorry, but I'm too proud to utter those actual words")
It is important to use the words "I am sorry for..." with our children as it signals taking responsibility for our wrong actions and restores trust in the relationship.
So…there you have it. Hope you’ve found it both interesting and helpful :)
Until next time!