by Marianne Kelley | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist
All babies are born with the capacity for empathy. However, spending too much time using devices such as smartphones, tablets and TVs can weaken this skill. That’s why it’s important to help children practice kindness and caring from an early age, especially in our constantly connected world.
Now this doesn’t mean we should block kids completely from using technology! To encourage kindness in our digital world, we adults simply need to set rules for media usage, monitor kids’ online interactions, use parental controls and, most importantly, set a good example.
We hope these tips will help you find new ways to nurture empathy.Read More →
Tip 1: Build a vocabulary of words that describe feelings.
- Use simple words to describe the emotions of others. (Look at that lady’s beautiful smile; she must be very happy!)
- Label your feelings and ask children to do the same.
- Act out different scenarios and discuss how the people involved might be feeling.
Tip 2: Decode nonverbal cues by reading facial expressions and body language.
- Help children learn to read nonverbal cues by pointing out specific examples. Ask kids how someone who is crying might be feeling, and encourage them to think of ways they might help.
Tip 3: Work emotional words into everyday life.
- Work more emotional words into your discussions with children. (I’m so happy to see your smiling faces today!)
- Encourage children to use more emotional words each day. They can even practice identifying emotions in themselves using our Moods & Emotions Mirrors.
Tip 4: Watch movies without sound.
- As you watch, ask kids to guess the characters’ feelings based on their facial expressions, movements and more.
Tip 5: Read!
- Read books as a group while discussing the feelings and reactions of the characters.
- Use emotional voices as you read to help children understand the characters’ feelings.
- Explore books designed specifically to help kids explore feelings and build empathy, such as our Moods & Emotions Book Set, Building Character Book Set and Feelings & Emotions Paperback Library.
Tip 6: Model empathetic behavior.
- Start volunteering, and be sure to discuss your experiences with children.
- When you’re upset, happy, sad, mad, etc., label and explain your feelings. If you’re uncomfortable sharing your own feelings, model emotions with our Feelings & Emotions Washable Dolls. Use them to act out scenarios that will help children understand different emotions.
Tip 7: Incorporate empathy into your discipline style.
- When children require discipline, prompt them to consider how their actions affect others. For example, if the negative behavior involved pushing, ask the child how it feels to be pushed.
Tip 8: Give back.
- As a group or team, collect toys and clothing to give to shelters or charities.
- Ask kids to share their ideas for helping the community.
Tip 9: Follow the golden rule.
- Treat others (and animals) as you want to be treated—all day, every day.
- Give kids specific examples of the golden rule in action with our Learning to Get Along Book Set. These books walk kids through sharing, listening, resolving conflicts and more.
And never forget the best way to inspire kindness in children—getting involved and showing them you care!