Empathy isn't something babies are born with, rather, it's a uniquely human trait that is developed in the formative early years of a child's life. Understanding, and more importantly, expressing empathy is a result of developing social and emotional skills. Check out these fours ways to encourage and develop empathy in your child.
1. Practice what you preach. Children naturally mimic their caregivers actions. By modelling empathy, showing respect, and interacting with other's in a kind and caring manner, your'e teaching empathy and your child will learn from your example.
2. Teach your child about emotion, which can begin very early in infancy! Talk to your child about their emotions. If they are crying talk to them about why they are sad or frustrated. If they are laughing, playfully ask why they are happy. Practice by mimicking by emotions in the mirror with your child. As you child grows they will be to understand emotions more clearly, continuing to develop social and emotional skills.
3. Show empathy towards your child, when sadness, frustration, and anger occur, it is important for parents to empathise with their children. If your child is upset, talk to them about how they are feeling, and ask them questions to help them understand their emotions.
4. Provide your child with opportunities for practising empathy. Grab a stuffed animal or doll, and role play various situations with your child. For example, "Mr Bear said that his friend won't share with him. How do you think Mr Bear feels?" Talking to your child about the feelings of others (whether real, or in a Mr Bear situation). Will help them understand, analysis, and empathise with the emotions of others in real time situations.
Helping your child to build, and practice empathy will help to develop and strengthen their social and emotional skills that will carry with them throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
Kid - focused activities like The Little Gym can be a great option for real world social skill building for kids.