Teaching Children Empathy
In today’s #ThursdayThoughts blog post, we are going to look at Owen’s advice on how parents can teach their children empathy. This is a good follow-on from last week’s post on bullying, as often bullying behaviour can stem from, or be made worse by, a lack of empathy with others. Owen also explains that empathy is related to intimacy needs, which we covered in previous posts. Let us know on our social media profiles if you have any suggestions to add!
HAVE YOU GOT SUGGESTIONS FOR TEACHING CHILDREN EMPATHY?
We need to get children to understand empathy by relating a given situation to themselves. “Do you know how it hurts when X happens to you? Well, if you do X to your brother, it hurts your brother the same way it hurts you.” You teach them empathy rather than allowing them to just think about themselves. Empathy can be learned and it’s an emotionally intelligent process. A child’s E.Q. (their emotional quotient) can be improved greatly by teaching them emotional skills. As parents, we should put as much effort into encouraging emotional intelligence as we do into intellectual development. The world needs to have people who are balanced – not just academically locked into one way of seeing the world and unable to engage with the emotional side of themselves. If the emotional skills are not learned and encouraged, then people will come to a place where emotionally they have no experience or skills, and it can cause great upset.
Children will always let you know what their needs are. They will show you that they have a need for comfort or attention by making certain noises and gestures. By nature, you are fairly well-equipped to comprehend the different cries or ways in which a child will communicate his or her need for comfort or attention. It’s important for parents to react to those sounds and gestures and minister to those needs. The problem with not seeing your child from one day to the next is that you not exposed to those sounds and actions enough to be able to recognise them and act on them, and this can cause awful problems. I believe Bolby was the first to see that children are so easily hurt by separation anxiety because they interpret that when they try to communicate their neediness, their parents don’t recognise it. Having intimacy needs met is a crucial backdrop to the development of a child’s emotional intelligence.