How to Teach and Develop Empathy in Children

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This guest post was written by Claire Adams, a personal and professional development expert who believes that positive attitude is one of the keys to success. You can find her online writing and giving tips about lifestyle and development as a regular contributor to You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter

Photo by Anna Kolosyuk

As parents, we always strive to provide the best things we can for our children and teach them the skills they’ll need to cope with life’s challenges. One skill that often gets left behind is empathy.  This emotional capacity to adopt other perspectives, share and value different opinions is crucial in surviving and thriving in society. This is not an inherent quality, but one that needs to be acquired. Parents are crucial in teaching their kids this valuable skill.

Empathy is a skill even many adults fail to express in some situations. It is one that is essential in establishing moral values, compassion, kindness, and understanding of others. As it’s such a complex and elusive quality, most parents experience difficulties in trying to teach their kids. The tips outlined here, we hope that learning empathy will be much easier for you and your kids.

Acknowledge your children’s needs

The best approach you can take in developing your child’s empathy is by talking to them. This will create a stronger attachment between the two of you, and it will help them get a grasp of the emotional spectrum in others.

Talking openly about any issues that might puzzle them, about other people’s emotions as well as their own, will be a significant factor in allowing them to get better insight into the inner workings of the mind and soul. So, despite your busy schedules, when at home, keep your eyes and heart open and seize every opportunity to have a conversation with your children.


Photo by Bruno Nascimento

Expose them to various learning environments

The primary source of learning for your kids is you and your home. Compassion and empathy are a social experience at their core. It’s necessary for your kids to get the opportunity to learn in other environments as well, and to communicate with others, such as their peers, teachers, and people with special needs.

More and more child care centers strive to incorporate EQ-oriented activates in order to encourage communication among children of different backgrounds and abilities. Many institutions work with underprivileged children and are in great need of volunteers. Such activity is an excellent opportunity for you and your kids to participate in helping those kids improve their circumstances by learning and getting education foundation scholarships, which will give them access to better equipment and studies.

By volunteering to be their tutor or mentor and involving your kids in the process, you’ll have a unique opportunity to offer help and compassion to others. Give your children a first-hand experience of social situations where they can express their empathy and contribute.


Photo by Anna Samoylova

Nurture respect towards others who are different

Children are naturally curious and fascinated by people who are in some ways different. So they often blurt out very direct questions and observations. It could be someone with a physical or developmental disability, so don’t shy away from the opportunity to explain the obvious to your child. If possible, encourage contact and introduce your child to them and let them see that we are all more alike than different.

These situations offer excellent follow-up opportunities where you can talk more with your kids about other types of disabilities and teach them about the horrors of bullying and importance of taking the side of those who can’t defend themselves. This will encourage kindness and compassion in your kids, instead of pity and rejection.


Photo by Michael LaRosa

Play games

Playing games with your kids is a subtle way to direct their attention towards other people’s feelings. It could be in a park or a family gathering by observing other’s behavior. Ask your kids to explain the facial expressions and reactions they see and interpret the feelings behind them. Help them understand that non-verbal communication is often more important and revealing than verbal.


Today’s kids are growing up in a society full of violence. Teaching them emotional literacy and developing their empathy has never been more important. Every day will offer new learning possibilities and it’s up to you as a parent to seize them. Once your kids learn how to cope with adversities and stress, they’ll be more accepting of their own emotions, more open, compassionate and understanding towards others.

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