When my son was only 3 years old, his keyworker at nursery told me that he was very empathetic. He would comfort his friends when they were upset. There are many reason that I’m proud of my son, and this is one of them. (I’m proud of me too for nurturing that side of him.)
It takes a special child to display empathy at such a young age, but nearly everyone has this super power and it just needs developing. I’ve been researching how to help children, as I think I helped my son by accident, and this is what I’ve found:
- Role model: ensure your children hear you asking others how they are and see you listening to the replies;
- Name emotions: ‘does your favourite teddy cheer you up?’, ‘were you scared of the lions at the zoo?’, ‘cuddles make me feel happy‘;
- Validation: ‘thank you for telling me that …’, ‘I understand how you feel about …’;
- Pretend play: any role play game can lead to modelling empathy. Bring that element to your character and see it reflected back to you. For example, when you’re the Dr be empathetic to your patient.
- Read stories with empathy: check out some free stories online here or my Lum stories are a great starting point for younger children.
- Make suggestions and ask questions: ‘Let’s make a card for Grandma as that will make her feel special‘, ‘your friend is upset, how can we make her happy?’