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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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