Parents have their work cut out for them to teach children all the important foundations of life, and how to respect our community. Teaching your child the power of empathy is an invaluable lesson, and one that will shape children into caring individuals who have empathy will all kinds of people. If you are already aware of the benefits of raising empathetic children but have no idea where to start, let’s cover some tips. 

Supporting charities

Supporting charities and making charitable donations is a perfect way to exemplify what it means to be empathetic and contribute to the support of others. Depending on where you live and the issues and adversity in your local area, you may find that supporting local charities has more impact as you can clearly demonstrate to your children who is being helped and why. For example, if there is a homelessness issue in your local area, you can donate time to a soup kitchen so your children can see how this effort has a direct impact. 

Showcases a full range of emotions 

Like anything a child learns, it comes from being modelled by parents. Don’t hold back in showing your children a full range of emotions, and naming them as they arise. Of course, you don’t want to unload on your children, but you can label feelings like: tired, happy, excited, and so on. The sooner they identify what emotions are, the sooner they can recognise these sentiments in others and themselves, and have great empathy. 

Choose the right books

There is a shortage of great books for children, many of which cover a wide breadth of topics. It can be tempting to buy or borrow library books that are fun, sweet and cute, and while you shouldn’t stop reading these – try and incorporate some deeper book titles. There are some children’s books that discuss inclusivity, and modern family structures and books that discuss what it means to be sad sometimes. Be sure to discuss the themes with your child after you finish the book so that they can query any of the concepts and be left with a deeper understanding of the topic. 

Be inquisitive about their day

There are many reasons why you should be curious about your children’s day and all they achieved and witnessed therein. They provide the perfect opportunity to explore empathy on a daily basis. If your child comes home from school and says that their friend was sick that day, you can prompt them in recognising that their friend might be feeling sad that they are sick, and what can we do to help them feel better? You may arrive at the decision to write a ‘get well soon’ card for the friend, demonstrating empathy. 

Engaging in community events and activities

It’s impossible to teach and learn empathy in a vacuum. Your children need to be engaging with their surroundings and community to get a sense of how we all fit in and work together in harmony. As they get older, you can also teach them that there are some groups of people that unfortunately do not have the same opportunities and treatment as others, which may instil in them a sense of social justice and awareness of their own place in society. Use your common sense here in providing this information and exploration at the right time in their lives, rather than overloading them at an early age. Libraries age a great place to start when looking for community events and activities for children as well as council channels. 

If in doubt – use television

You cannot be everywhere for your child at all hours of the day, so how do you know that your message and education are getting through? Fortunately, there are some great television shows out there that handle these complex issues in creative and entertaining ways. Australian children’s show, Bluey covers seemingly trivial matters in every episode but they always have a deeper meaning and lesson in each episode. Almost all of these messages centre around the love between the main family and life events that challenge and strengthen that bond. Point your child in the direction of quality television if they do want to watch screens so you know there is valuable content being delivered. 

If only teaching our children empathy was as easy as it was teaching them how to hold a pencil or make their bed. This is a lesson they will carry through life and will shape the way they perceive the world and care for their fellow man.