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Scientists believed that children were unable to have feelings of empathy until they were 5 or 6 years of age. Recently, researcher Alison Gopnik has identified that children as young as 18 months of age have the ability to empathize with others. Being able to understand another person’s feelings at this age is incredible. It is useful for parents to help their young children hone this critical skill of understanding another. This skill is the foundation for caring and hence is vital to relationships. Two tips are offered by child experts (Parents Magazine).
- Have discussions about feelings. Sometimes children may have difficulty vocalizing their powerful feelings with words. Emotions can be complex and difficult to convey. Help your child identify their own feelings with facial expressions that match feelings. Also, if a child is crying ask your child what may be the reason the child is crying. Allow the child to think of a way of making the child who is crying feel better. This is also an opportunity to engage in prosocial behaviors. Offering the child a toy that is crying may help them feel better.
- Lead by Example. Your child is a miniature scientist studying every micro behavior you engage in and trying to understand it. The manner in which you engage with others is going to set an example for your child. Model the behaviors you want your child to emulate. If you are being empathetic to another person, your child will pick up on the content of your words, your tone and body language. Your child’s detailed focus on your behaviors will help them learn how to engage in relationships with others.
Teaching your children empathy will help set the groundwork for healthy relationships with family, friends, co-workers, etc. It is an essential skill that allows us to peacefully co-exist, care for one another and have meaningful relationships. Empathy is a key ingredient to happy and healthy relationships.
A.C.T. will provide free resource information for individuals and families to help promote education. For more information, please contact Dr. Drecun at Dr.Drecun@a4ct.com or (858) 792-3541. You may also visit us online at www.a4ct.com. ACT serves the Del Mar 92014 and Rancho Santa Fe 92067.