Develop A Child's Empathy Since the Early Years

Oleh: Morinaga Platinum

As parents, of course you want your child to have intellectual quotient as well as emotional and spiritual quotients. To teach and sharpen emotional quotient of a child is not an easy thing. But with patience and good example from parents, a good character, including empathy, will be formed since childhood.

You may frequently hear the word ‘empathy’. Actually, what is an empathy? Empathy is an ability to feel someone’s emotional condition, feel sympathetic, and try to solve problems from their point of view. In other words, if a child can empathize, meaning he understands how others are feeling in particular situation, be it sad, angry, disappointed, or happy.

As a social human being, humans are not able to live by alone. Having empathy is very important so that we are close to others and more concerned with others. Empathy is often underestimated, although it is very beneficial for daily life. A person who is highly empathetic, will tend to be more careful in talking and behaving so as not to harm others.

Empathy is not an ability which is automatically present since birth, but a science that must be sharpened and shaped. Let alone a child, not all adults are able to apply this science of empathy in their daily lives.

What is the appropriate method to teach empathy to children?

Empathy as a foundation of mutual respect needs to be taught since the early years. Look out some tips below that may be applied to your little one:

Fulfill his emotional needs

A 1987 study by Mark A. Barnett revealed that children whose emotional needs were fulfilled by their closest related person, possess greater empathy. Make sure you provide a warm hug if your child looks sad. Indirectly, this attitude is a form of teaching empathy to your child.

Do not underestimate your child’s complaints

More often than not, parents do not take seriously what is being told by children, including his problems. It is better if you listen to what he says with an attitude as you talk with an adult. Focus on what is said, not who said it. Your child will feel and learn that there is a feeling of comfort when his complaints are heard or noticed. Thus, he will also do the same with his friends or other people around him.

Give response with expression

Based on theory of empathy by Martin L. Hoffman in 1979, a two-year-old child has been able to understand other’s emotion. This understanding will then develop into a sense of empathy. However, the reflection of that sense of empathy is not yet appropriate. For example, when a friend cries, a child may offer her favorite doll or drink bottle—two things that might work to calm her down but not others.

A way to change that form of response is to teach your child various expressions. Laughing, feeling sad or disappointed are some expressions that adults can show as a response to a child’s attitude. As an example, when your child looks gloomy, you can come over him with a sad expression. This would show that you understand what he feels. Therefore, he will learn how to respond to various situations faced by the people surround him. This attitude will then be the embryo of an appropriate empathy response.

To embed good attitude in a child, you should give examples. Show that you care to others or invite him to engage in a discussion regarding a particular concern so that he can actively involve.

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