When we think of developmental milestones in children we tend to think of the physical skills that we can see with our own eyes such as crawling, walking, or speaking. But developing a resilient toolkit of strong interpersonal skills and abilities is just as important during a child’s early years.
One of these skills is the power of empathy.
Empathy is when someone is able to understand someone else’s perspective, even if it may differ from their own. Learning empathy and compassion does not come easy to anyone – let alone to children who are still realising and creating their own sense of self. However, it is important to encourage your child to learn, develop, and strengthen a sense of empathy in order to improve their overall development and interaction with the world around them.
As your child grows older and encounters new and varied experiences, a keen sense of empathy will help them navigate the challenges and opportunities that come their way.
Why is Empathy in Children more important than ever?
Apart from enabling your child better connect to others around them, learning empathy has many other benefits for children including:
- Encouraging understanding, tolerance, and compassion for those who are different
- Promoting good mental health and wellbeing
- Strengthening your child’s relationships with trusted individuals and friends
- Helping your child better manage stressful or tense situations
While learning empathy might begin with connecting and empathising with others’ situations, it can also further your child’s long-term self-development and deepen their understanding of and connection to their own feelings.
Empathy is an important part of your child’s communication toolkit, and the benefits of developing a strong sense of empathy can trickle on into their adult years too. A strong sense of empathy has been shown to be a significant driver of thoughtful problem solving, making it a useful skill in formal education or the workplace.
However there have been recent concerns about whether the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the development of empathy and other interpersonal skills in children.
As children develop such skills through meaningful interactions with both adults and peers of their own age, a growing concern is that curtailed opportunities for social interaction may have hindered such social cognitive development.
However this is not an irreversible situation. As communities begin to open up and more opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction between young children, parents and educators alike can provide renewed avenues to help them develop and nurture children’s empathy and compassion.
How to encourage Empathy in Children
One of the best ways to nurture empathy in children is through encouraging your child’s interactions with peers around their age. This can take the form of structured sessions such as preschool programs, or informal occasions such as weekend playdates or family gatherings.
Many types of activities can create important opportunities to talk about empathy and compassion including volunteering activities for children, visits to an animal sanctuary or shelter, or simply discussing the everyday experiences around you.
Children are naturally curious about those who appear different from themselves and rather than shying away from these conversations, parents, educators, and caregivers can use them as a launching pad for deeper understandings regarding empathy.
Using holistic methodologies like the 3-Mind Approach, our programs encourage children to be bold, resilient, and compassionate in the way they interact with those around them. In this way, our programs strive to unlock the Champion Mindset in each and every child so that they can achieve – and exceed – their full potential.