We live in a time when children are more concerned with what their next ‘selfie’ will be than how others are feeling. It is more important than ever for parents and teachers to make a concerted effort to teach children how to empathise.
“A classroom of learners that are empathetic runs much smoother. School life is both more harmonious, and more productive when children are able to empathise. They need to understand one another’s feelings and put the needs of others first,” says Lynne Arbuckle, primary school principal of Riverside College, a pre-primary and high school situated in Cape Town’s Burgundy Estate.
How do you get your child to empathise with others? Arbuckle offers some useful tips:
- Lead by example. Children look up to their parents and teachers. Your being empathetic towards your child provides them with an example of how they can show empathy towards others.
- Make kindness a routine. Challenge your kids to do at least two kind things a day. Then ask them what their two things were on the way home from school.
- Be “feeling investigators”: Ask your children to “investigate” how others are feeling – talk about the different feelings they may find and how to deal with them.
- Ask, “How would you feel?”: Encourage children to put themselves in others shoes – this will help them to understand why they may be feeling the way they are.
- Best and worst. Take turns around the dinner table to express the best and worst parts of your day. This will encourage children to talk about any good or bad feelings they may have experienced on a regular basis and teaches them to listen to what others are feeling too.
According to Arbuckle, a class filled with children who are empathetic makes for a much better learning environment. And a world filled with adults who are empathetic makes for a much better place to live.