Dr. Michele Borba: 4 Tips for Nurturing Empathy in Children

When people are asked to list the best qualities of humans, kindness and compassion are always at the top of the list. We're able to be compassionate with others in large part because we can empathize with them. Empathy is key to a healthy, compassionate person (and a healthy, compassionate world), and studies show that we're innately wired to be empathetic, and that even at a very young age we demonstrate (and show a preference for) empathy.

But in a culture dominated by violence, cruelty, and self-absorption, empathy must be nurtured; and studies show that young people are less empathetic than in generations past. We know that humane education is essential in helping nurture empathy in others, but as their child's first teacher, parents have an important opportunity to start building pathways to kindness and compassion.

Recently parenting consultant, Dr. Michele Borba, wrote on her blog about the importance of nurturing empathy in children and offered four tips for helping parents help their children develop facility with recognizing and understanding others' feelings. Her tips included:
  1. Point out other people's feelings (so that children learn to recognize emotions and understand what others are feeling);
  2. Switch roles to feel the other side (so that children learn to put themselves in the place of others);
  3. Imagine someone's feelings (so that children learn to understand the feelings and needs of others);
  4. Create a goodness legacy for your child (so that children have long-term modeling and experience with building empathy).
Read the complete post.

These are great tips that can be extended beyond our daily, face-to-face relationships to nurturing empathy for all other people, animals, and even the planet. (For one activity that touches on this, see Council of All Beings)

If you'd like additional ideas for raising compassionate, conscientious children, check out our online course, Raising a Humane Child. The next session begins in February.

~ Marsha

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