| January 22nd, 2007

Teaching Empathy to our Children

As I walked into the preschool classroom I see two boys in the block area building a structure. To respect the privacy of the children, I will call them A and B. The boys are about four years old. While building the structure, A trips over a block that was on the floor, falls and cries. B takes a look and continues building. The teacher comes along comforts the child. While I was observing, I could not help but to question my mind, are we teaching children to be more caring? How can we teach empathy to our kids?

We all want our kids to develop empathy; that essential knack for understanding how another person feels and responding with kindness. We want our children to grow up to be thoughtful, compassionate adults who are “tuned in” to the feelings and needs of others.

For the next several weeks I observed many different preschool and kindergarten classrooms. I was happy to see that teachers are helping children develop empathy. Teachers were teaching empathy by role modeling. One teacher said to me: It doesn’t matter how many words you say to kids, whether they are young or adolescents, it’s what you do that they’ll always take most notice of. So in teaching them empathy, you have to be able to model it yourself!

While I was making an observation in the playground, the teacher said to a child: “Mary looks lonely. Do you think you could see if she wants to play with us?” So they went asked and got Mary to play with them.

In another classroom they were cleaning the hamster cage. One child says: Star (the hamster) is cold, she is shaking. Another girl goes and gets a little rag and puts it on the hamster and says: ‘there, that should keep you warm.’ The teacher says: ‘I am happy to see you found a way to keep Star warm while we clean the cage’.

There are many things we can do to teach empathy to our children. We can start by helping children describe his or her feelings. Help them read facial expression and body language. We can also point out real-life examples of empathy in the news, in history, in our neighborhood or in our faith and community. Have them take care of pets, plants, nature.

The most important thing is to remember that the children are watching us all the time so we have to role model and be consistent in what we do and say. They are watching how we interact with other teachers, parents, and children. At home they watch how we interact with family members. They watch how we interact with other human beings in the community. So lets be more kind, compassionate, caring individuals so our children can learn from us and grow up to be one.


More information:

Teaching Empathy to Children Through Benevolent Selfishness 


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Adhunika blog is launched with a mission to share knowledge among women from every walk of life. Sometime it would be in the form of sharing experience to find a feasible solution of a problem; sometime it would be in the form of professional consultation, which Adhunika group will arrange for its bloggers. Nevertheless, the intent of this blog always remains the same - to help and empower women through a common web-based platform....read more



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