To have empathy means to have the ability to understand the feelings of another person. We
come across many people who have
walked different paths than us in our lives and have different experiences than our own. It’s easy to see how having empathy for another adult or grown person can be positive. But what about when we interact with children? 2 years old, 5 years old, 8, 10, 15, even 18 year old children have different perspectives than we do.
It’s easy to dismiss children as innocent or naïve but here are 6 reasons on how empathy plays a vital role in the development of children.
It provides children with a safe place to learn about themselves, what they like, dislike, their interests and it allows them to learn about the world around them. This gives the child a strong foundation of self which benefits them but is not limited to making major life decisions, knowing their own triggers, learning what they need, how to fulfill that need, gaining experience in effective communication, maintaining healthy relationships, and setting boundaries.
Showing children empathy enables you to build a relationship with them that is built on trust and allows them to show up as their authentic self. This promotes self confidence, reduces anxiety, and keeps a line of communication open between you and the child.
Respecting a child and showing them what they are worthy of will allow them to better set boundaries in other relationships.
It provides the child with experience in negotiation and asking for what they want and learning how to meet others needs to achieve an end goal that is favorable for everyone. The child will be more comfortable asking for PTO (paid time off), raises, applying for promotions, or even running their own business. They will have learned how to pick up on the needs of others and use creative problem solving to meet their needs.
It allows the child to flex the muscle of saying “no” and not feeling ashamed, scared, or anxious. Having empathy and focusing on a relationship with your child that is based on connection will teach your child that they can say “no” and still be loved, accepted, and safe. This also helps set a standard for what they will allow in future relationships. Healthy boundaries, yall!
Lastly, you may not always succeed in being empathetic with your child and this shows them that one, We’re human and we all make mistakes, and two, it’s okay to make mistakes. We can learn from them and try for better next time. It reduces the fear of “failure” and takes the pressure off perfectionism. For children to see the adults in their lives as humans who also have flaws, triggers, fears, and more teaches them that you don’t have to get it right the first time and many things are a work in progress. We begin to teach authenticity through empathy.