Let’s End the Me-First Mentality: We Need to Foster Empathy in Children More Than Ever
Be an example to your child.
“We are living in an age where loneliness is rampant, empathy is scarce, and the me-first mentality dominates. This has to change now.” -Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The need for empathy has never been greater than it is today. We live in a time when empathy declines, and with it goes any sense of community or connection with one another.
It’s time for parents, educators, and especially children to be more aware of what we can do to foster this resourceful quality before it’s too late.
As parents and educators, we play a pivotal role in shaping future generations by teaching them how to care for themselves and others. And if children are not taught empathy at home or school, they will likely learn it from the media.
There are many ways to foster empathy in both children and adults. One way is to model compassion yourself. Be aware of your feelings and needs, and also be mindful of the feelings and needs of others. Pay attention to the body language and facial expressions, and try to put yourself in their shoes.
Another way to foster empathy is teaching children about different cultures and religions. Help them to understand that because people look or dress differently than they do, it doesn’t mean that they are any different on the inside. Teach them to accept people for who they are and respect them for it.
Everyone experiences feelings and needs — whether you’re a boy or girl, young or old, rich or poor. It’s up to you to guide your child to resolve conflicts and express their emotions through words instead of violence. You can also teach your children about taking responsibility for their actions.
Empathy is an essential aspect of developing friendships with others. This means listening when someone shares something with you, even if it’s something that might be difficult to hear at first. It also means communicating by asking questions and checking in with your friends to let them know you are there for them.
Remember, empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy means feeling bad about someone else’s problems or situation, while empathy is the ability to understand and share in someone’s feelings.
Empathy is not about being nice to people but also understanding them and their feelings. Many factors can diminish it. From lack of sleep to too much screen time, many things can turn empathy on or off.
Empathy is the ability to understand people in a way that leads you to share in their feelings, perspectives, and experiences. It doesn’t mean you need to agree with them. But you must see things from their perspective and understand where they are coming from.
This skill is different for each age group because it can be something that develops or diminishes over time. There are three types of empathy that are seen in children:
The first type is called “self- empathy.” This is when your child recognizes and understands their feelings and perspectives.
The second type of empathy is called “social empathy.” This occurs when your child can understand someone else’s feelings and perspectives by imagining themselves as the person they observe.
The third kind of empathy is called “emotional empathy.” This occurs when your child can feel someone else’s emotions without experiencing them themselves through imagination.
All these types of empathy are essential, but the third type is the most crucial for developing relationships with others. This type of empathy allows your child to feel what the other person is feeling and respond in a way that shows they care.
As your child develops, they will use more complex language to communicate their thoughts and feelings. This is when you can help them by asking questions and providing feedback. The goal is to help them develop into a compassionate and understanding adult.
The Importance of Empathy in Early Childhood Education
There are several ways to instill empathy in children at a young age, but teaching them early on about the importance of being empathetic is one of the most effective strategies. Studies have shown that if children learn how to identify with another person’s feelings and consider those feelings when making decisions from a young age, their chances of living happier and healthier lives will increase.
The younger your child is when you begin teaching them these skills, the easier it will be for them to grasp and apply what they’ve learned as they get older. Empathy can be taught through play and other interactions with others.
Empathy and understanding others is fundamental characteristic of human beings. We often see this word used interchangeably with sympathy, but they mean that we can identify with someone else’s feelings and experiences. It’s the ability to understand another person’s thoughts or actions from their perspective.
Talking to Children about Emotions
Children learn empathy and emotional understanding from a young age. This is why we must teach them the importance of thinking about other people’s feelings and how to deal with their own emotions. Most importantly, they need to express themselves, making the world a better place for everyone.
The critical thing here is that parents should not teach their children how to feel or what emotions they should have — children need to find these things out for themselves.
Talking to children about emotions and what they need to learn is a never-ending conversation. Children are constantly learning and growing, and as parents, we can help them with that process by listening to them.
We should be encouraging our children rather than discouraging them, so we should try not to put too much pressure on them.
Instead of telling our children what they need to do, we should ask them how they feel about the problem and give our feedback after hearing their thoughts.
The weakening of empathy in society may be one of the most challenging changes in modern culture. It can lead to a more isolated, less connected community, with more social problems and less collective positive action.
The concept that empathy is one of the essential aspects of childhood development stems from many different research studies. One study indicated that more empathetic children are less likely to engage in aggression or bullying. It was also found that these same children experience higher levels of positive behavior and less anxiety or depression.
Why it Matters That Children are Empathetic?
A significant amount of evidence suggests that empathy is an essential component of human sympathy and understanding. Besides, it is necessary for moral development.
In the book “Moral Development and Reality: Beyond the Theories of Kohlberg, Hoffman, and Haidt” John C. Gibbs states that “empathy thanks to cognitive development, language development, and moral socialization, empathy progresses from biologically based responses to surface cues to a more complex and veridical emotional responsiveness to the joys, sufferings, and life situations of others.”
Empathy not only helps us understand other people but also ourselves. It provides a sense of self-awareness by allowing us to feel what others are feeling, which can cause one to reflect on their own life and behavior to see if they have been causing harm or pain.
So, how can we help our children become more empathetic?
Never underestimate the power of play and imagination. There are a few essential things to keep in mind when helping your child develop empathy:
Talk to them about emotions and what they mean. This can be done in various ways, such as through books, conversations, or even drawings.
Help them understand that every person has different thoughts and feelings and that it’s ok to have their own opinion.
Please encourage them to think about other people’s feelings before making decisions. This can be done by asking them questions such as “How would you feel if that happened to you?”
Show them how to express their emotions healthily. Different role-playing situations can do this with them.
Avoid pressuring them, negatively affecting their emotional understanding.
Don’t force your children to help others if they don’t want to — instead, teach them that it’s ok not to feel like helping others sometimes and that there are other ways of being empathetic besides doing so.
Do not tell them what emotions they “should” be feeling; instead, ask them how they think.
Be an example to your child — let them see you being empathetic towards others!
Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s message is clear — empathy is a skill that needs to be nurtured for it to flourish, and we have the power to do that by being mindful of our actions and reactions. In today’s age where loneliness abounds, empathy is scarce, and self-interest dominates over all else, this has never been more true than now. It’s time for parents, educators, children themselves — every one — to take responsibility for fostering this resourceful quality before it disappears entirely from society altogether. What are some ways you can foster empathy? Let me know your thoughts!
This post was previously published on Medium.