How to cultivate empathy in a child?

Not surprisingly, this is one of the most common questions asked by parents. While parents do want their children to be academically intelligent, it is pleasing to note that most parents want their children to understand and value other’s perspectives & opinion just as they value their own.

Agreed, it isn’t easy to teach this skill to young children, but it is never too late to start. For one, it will greatly aid the child’s overall development and growth. For when a child embraces his/her emotional/empathetic side, he/she will definitely become more confident of him/herself. Listed below are ways in which you can teach empathy to your child.

1) Teach them about Emotions:

Kids won’t be able to empathise if they aren’t able to put their emotions into words. Over a period of time, make the effort to explain to your child the different feelings he/she goes through so that he/she can have a better grasp on emotions. Also, explain to him/her the emotions you are experiencing. No child is too young to start hearing about emotions and getting to know what it means to feel something.

2) Praise Empathetic Behaviour:

If your child performs an act of kindness, tell him/her that he/she did the right thing and be specific about it. The specifics make it easy for the child to understand the emotions involved and how other people feel about it. Praising them for their right/correct actions will encourage them to be more empathetic and emotionally aware.

3) Discuss those Feelings:

While your children are fighting, no logical reasoning you wish to impart to them is going to make sense to them. Instead, you will have wait for the fight to be over and for them to calm down. Then, you can go back and talk to each child about what he/she was feeling and why he/she acted the way he/she did. Discuss how they felt, why they felt those emotions and teach them to express themselves instead of simply retaliating. Getting a better hold on emotions will help children empathise well.

4) Encouragement through Stories:

Build empathy through stories, plays, role-playing, by reading books to them and so on. Get them to look inside the character’s mind and personality so that they can better understand how others feel. Watch inspirational movies together will make room for careful reflection of how other’s are feeling in a given situation.

5) Basics Rules of Politeness:

Good manners are a great way for your young child to show care and respect for others. One can begin with words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Teach them the importance of politeness in the society and how it helps build mutual respect. Teaching children to be polite from a young age helps them communicate better in the future.

These are some tips that can help your child realise his/her innate potential to be empathic and kind.  However, there is no substitute for acting empathically yourself and allowing your child to observe and thereon emulate you. Therefore, lead from the front and truly help your child to learn to empathise.


Swati Bhatt


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