Developing Empathy

It is important to understand that empathy is different from sympathy. Sympathy is the ability to feel sorry for someone, while Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s emotions.

Empathy

The World Economic Forum confirms that early social skills carry over into career success. Our children who are tomorrows work force must be able to collaborate, communicate and solve problems in an ever-changing world. Researchers believe empathy is one of the most important social skills to teach children as it potentially helps them unlock other skills they need for future success, such as critical thinking, effective collaboration and problem solving.

It is important to understand that empathy is different from sympathy. Sympathy is the ability to feel sorry for someone, while Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s emotions. Children have natural empathy tendencies that adults can foster by setting good examples. Developing empathy in young children is almost like building a muscle – the more we serve others, the more empathetic we become. In other words, creating a service-oriented mindset in our children.

Here are a few service-oriented empathy building activities to do with your children and as a family.

  • Give a meal – it could be as simple as making a treat and delivering it to your neighbors or friends, or it could be as adventurous as buying food items and taking them to orphanages.
  • Care for animals – create homemade pet toys using fabric or socks and deliver as gifts to families with pets. Alternatively, offer to give a dog a bath – make sure it’s a friendly dog though!
  • Make a craft – there is something special about a hand-crafted gift – like a card. Make one with your child encouraging them to put their special touches, and distribute them for birthdays or get well soon for people in the hospital.
  • Create word art – simple phrases or poems can uplift and inspire. Sen thank you notes to teachers for example. In a culture that so often appears to reward materialism and greed, practicing kindness and serving others as a family is a powerful way to pass on the values of empathy, thoughtfulness and social responsibility.

If we want our children to grow up into adults who believe kindness matters, we must start setting good examples of empathy at an early stage. Children seem to have an innate goodness and a desire to help others. By making service a family priority, we ensure that this tendency flourishes and becomes a lifelong habit.

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