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Empathy and sympathy are often confused. To have empathy means to identify with the feelings of others and share in them. People who have sympathy feel compassion for others, but do not relate those feelings back to themselves. Empathy is a learned trait. Teaching children to be empathetic will help them become able to understand and help those who are struggling and suffering. These 3 tips will help you get started in teaching this important character trait.
Discuss empathy in everyday situations
When you first begin to teach your young children about empathy, you will have to explain what it means. For example, if your toddler hits a playmate and takes his toy, discuss with her how she would feel if a friend did that to her. Point out people who are feeling sad and discuss why they might feel that way. Ask your children what they could do to help. If a family member is sick, encourage others to help him or her in little ways.
Making your children more aware of times they should be empathetic will help them learn to feel empathy on their own. Be open to the things and experiences they discuss with you. They will have disagreements with friends and feel wronged. Help them see both sides of the situation and apply empathy.
Set the example
Children look to parents and trusted adults to set an example. Empathy is no different. If you want your children to be empathetic, you will need to be as well. Chances are your desire to be a good parent and the natural feelings of love you have for your children make you empathetic, but be aware of the way you act and the example you are setting. Don't brush off the feelings of those you come in contact with as invalid. Listen to and love all family members.
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