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12 Ways To Teach Your Children The Skill Of Empathy

12 Ways To Teach Your Children The Skill Of Empathy

What is “empathy” and why is it important? “Empathy” is the ability to be aware of another’s perspective and regulate your own emotional responses. It contributes to emotional stability, resilience, the ability to overcome adversity, social connectedness, and general contentment. Empathy is absolutely a skill worth cultivating on our children. But how do we go about such a task?

1. Provide consistent emotional and physical support to your child.

Studies have demonstrated that when kids have secure attached relationships, they are more likely to start caring for other children in distress.

2. Give your child plenty of physical affection.

Research shows that people who are provided with hugs, cuddles, and other physical touch, experience increases in their oxytocin levels. This, researchers believe, contributes to better abilities to decode, understand, and relate to the experiences of others.

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3. Keep in mind that your child is his/her own person with a mind of his/her own.

This allows for discussions about the unique perspectives and emotions of your child, without any inaccurate assumptions or projections. It also helps instill the idea that “it is okay to accept other people’s unique goals, desires, beliefs, feelings, and thoughts.”

4. Role-play with your child.

In one study, kids were asked to act-out the difficulties of old age (wearing glasses to distort vision and gloves to inhibit fine motor skills), and they ended up having much more empathy for the elderly. Sometimes, asking a child “how would you feel if….” is not as effective as actually role-playing being in the situation.

5. Intentionally discuss the perspectives of others.

Ask your child how he thinks people and characters feel given their situations. Use real-life, books, and movies as material. What do the characters feel, and why? What unique and formative experiences have they had to lead them to feel a certain way? One study showed that kids who discussed the emotions of characters in a book demonstrated more empathic tendencies than kids who simply read the books and drew pictures.

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6. Empathize with your child and then teach your child to problem-solve when he or she experiences negative feelings.

Research indicates that kids are more likely to show empathic concern for others if they have parents who show sympathy and guidance all them time, not just when they are upset.

7. Intentionally point out this fact: When a person looks at someone else’s upsetting situation while that person is in a calm emotional state, it is hard for that calm person to truly understand what the upset person is going through.

When your child is really upset about something, take that opportunity to point out that THIS is how so-and-so felt when such and such happened. In essence, strike while the emotion is hot.

8. Show your own empathy for other people in front of your child.

Pointing out your understanding of other people’s perspectives and sympathy for their situation is modeling such behavior for your child. Books, movies, and real-life can all provide opportunities for demonstrating your own empathy.

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9. Talk about the way your child’s feelings affect his or her choices in behavior.

Connect the dots between the time your child was feeling inferior from getting a low grade and two hours later when he called his little brother stupid.

10. Point out what your child has in common with other people.

Research shows that kids are more likely to feel empathy for other children who are similar to them. If your child is annoyed with his little brother for making so much noise, point out that when he was three, he loved to make race-car noises too.

11. Teach your child the pro-social reasons for rules instead of simply threatening punishment.

Teach him or her that it is not okay to hit because it “hurts others,” not so he or she avoids time out. Teach him or her about the effects of stealing on its victim, not about how “criminals go to jail.”

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12. Teach your child about validation.

Teach your child that others act the way they do for understandable reasons, given their experiences, sensitivities, and emotional and physical needs, and unique situations. Before your child continues on his tirade about how disgusted he is that his teacher yelled at him for no reason, explain that perhaps this woman’s behaviors were influenced by many experiences with bratty teenagers over her teaching career. For older kids, you may even go so far as to teach them about the famous Stanley Milgram experiment when average, pro-social people were persuaded into giving others painful electric shocks given the situation, tendency to trust, and need to conform.

Featured photo credit: greyerbaby via mrg.bz

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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