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Teaching Children Empathy What does it mean to be empathetic? Empathy is the ability to identify with or vicariously experience the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of others. Another words, being empathetic requires us to “walk in the other person’s shoes.” How can we teach children to be empathetic? In order for parents to teach this to their children, they themselves must practice empathy. This not only means being empathetic to other adults, but towards our children as well. When we become empathetic parents, it allows us to understand, communicate, teach and even love our children more. As a result, children will feel listened too and appreciated. This will foster social conscience including such things as compassion, respect and responsibility. When should we be empathetic? We should strive to always be empathetic. However, the most important time to be empathetic is often the hardest time, when we are angry or upset with our children. During these times, communication often breaks down and words are spoken out of frustration. Words spoken in anger often make the situation worse. Acknowledging this is the first step to changing it. The next step is trying to ask ourselves a series of question that will help us communicate our ideas more clearly and effectively. These questions are as follows: · Am I saying things in a way that would make my children receptive to what I am saying? · Would I want anyone to speak to me in the same way that I am speaking to my child? · What am I teaching my child by acting this way? Being empathetic does not mean that we will give into what the child wants. It means that we will try to communicate to them in a way in which we acknowledge their feelings, and communicate our ideas as well. What do we do when we mess up and forget to be empathetic? As parents, we should do the same thing that we expect our children to do. We should acknowledge our mistake, apologize and learn from it. Included in our apology should be an acknowledgement of what we did wrong, how it affected both the child and the parent and how the situation could be handled differently in the future. As with all skills, empathy takes practice, the more you practice it, the easier it will become.
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