Empathy is one of the essential social skills in child development that helps in minimizing conflicts and growing confidence. Empathy can be referred to as “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” and imagining what the person is thinking, or feeling, and what is the other person’s point of view and relating to their feelings.
In simple terms, you can relate empathy to how a person is feeling and truly understand what is going on in their mind.
“Empathy is caring emotion. For instance, if you saw a little girl cry because she dropped her ice cream on the ground, you might feel empathy towards it because you could relate to her sense of sadness.
You might even feel a tinge of sadness yourself. This feeling of sadness or happiness because of what others experience is known as empathy”
– Ifeoma Duchess
So what are some empathy-building activities that your child or your students need to master?
1. Labeling Feelings
You can start by asking the kids to describe and label they might feel in the following bullying scenarios:
- “If they saw someone being bullied.”
- “If they were being bullied.”
- “If they bullied someone.”
One thing you should realize is that bullying leads to intense feelings like anger, fear, and frustration. Indeed, it is okay to have these feelings, but it is never good to react to these feelings by doing violent things.
In this activity, the teacher or the parent should advise accordingly and point out that the best way to prevent and stop bullying is by working together.
2. Role-Play Different Scenarios
You should make it a routine for the children to learn empathy. You can make it fun by role-playing different scenarios, both in and out of the classroom.
For instance, you can ask the kids what would happen or how they would feel if they find themselves homeless. As a result, this will help the kids to develop a growth mindset.
You can even play games by sitting on a bench at the playground and asking the children to guess the mood of different individuals who walk by, and explain what made them think a person was mad, sad, or happy.
3. Feelings Collage
This is one of the fun activities that are worth trying in any classroom, exclusively if some of the kids are shy and might be having trouble acting out their emotions in front of others.
In this activity, bring stacks of magazines to the classroom and provide the art supplies (scissors, construction paper, and glue sticks) to the kids. Ask the kids to cut the photos from the magazines of different individuals expressing different kinds of feelings and ask them to use the pictures to make a “feelings collage.”
You can then ask them to label the pictures in their collage with the feeling word and encourage them to explain why they think that a person’s facial expression shows that kind of feeling.
4. Talk About Feelings
Encourage the kids to talk about their feelings. Let them know that you care about their feelings by listening attentively. Children go through different emotions, such as happy, angry, sad, and tired, just to mention a few.
That’s why it is essential to talk about their feelings, teach them their names for them, and train them to categorize what their emotions are. For instance, when a kid shouts, “Hooray!”, you can respond with “Wow! You are feeling happy today.”
5. Be A Role Model
Kids usually take cues from you on the words you speak and your body language. Most importantly, they observe and learn from you on how to treat other kids and react to particular scenarios.
Treating other people with kindness encourages the children to be the same.
6. Praise Their Empathetic Behavior
Raising empathetic children needs an empathetic teacher. When kids perform an act of kindness, tell them what they did was right and try to be very specific: “You were very courageous to stand up to that bully! That made your friend very happy.”
Why is it Important to Teach Children Empathy?
Empathy is the most valuable skill that every kid should possess. It helps build an understanding of what others are feeling, why someone may be experiencing particular feelings at a specific event, and how their actions can have a positive impact on others.
Some of the reasons why teaching empathy to kindergarten kids include:
- Empathy yields kindness – a quality that every parent would want to instill in their kids. And the source of this kindness is courage; courage to stand up for others and ourselves. According to a recent psychology study, “children with higher levels of empathy were more likely to engage in assertive bystander behavior – that is, they were more likely to stand up to a bully to help children who are bullied.”
- Empathy minimizes conflicts among the kids
- Empathy encourages confidence growth in children
- Empathy further supports good mental health.
- Empathy promotes tolerance and acceptance of others.
According to a 2013 research report conducted by CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning),
“Social and emotional learning (SEL) involves the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
Random Acts of Kindness Ideas for Kindergarten
“Kindness is spreading sunshine into other people’s lives regardless of the weather.”
A giant tree starts its life path from a small seed. It’s never too late to plant “seeds of kindness” in our children’s hearts and see them grow into beautiful caring people! So what are some small acts of kindness that your child can actually do?
- Acts of kindness for nature
- Plant a tree
- Feed the birds
- Pick up trash
- Acts of kindness for family members
- Wake up and smile at your parents or siblings
- Be kind to your parents and siblings
- Leave “I love you” notes
- Do a chore without anyone asking you
- Read a book for your brother or sister
- Sing a song together with your siblings
- Brush your teeth without mom asking you to do so
- Give lots and lots of hugs to your family members
- Help your mother or father to make dinner
- Talk to your grandparents about their life memories
- Ask your parents gently for things that you want (no tantrums)
- Open the car door for your mom
- Help your parents to unload the groceries from a car
- Forgive somebody in your family if they hurt you by accident
- Acts of kindness for friends
- Tell a joke
- Give a compliment
- Share candy or stickers
- Share your toys as you play together with your friends
- Acts of kindness for strangers (adults)
- Say “Hello”, “Thank you”, or “Goodbye” when appropriate
- Open a door for somebody and hold it
- Acts of kindness for strangers (kids)
- Teach your neighbor’s child to ride a bike
- Donate toys you don’t need to an orphanage
- Donate clothes you don’t need to a homeless shelter
- Acts of kindness for school
- Be nice to your friends at school
- Be nice to your teacher
- Bring home-baked muffins to school (you help with baking)
- Acts of kindness for yourself
- If you make a mistake, forgive yourself
- If you did something worse than you expected, forgive yourself
- If you hurt somebody by accident, forgive yourself
- ALWAYS encourage yourself to do better next time…
How to Help a Child Verbalize Feelings?
First of all, let’s start with defining the feelings that your children may feel. Your child’s feelings are no different from your feelings, except that sometimes their reaction may be exaggerated to a certain extent.
This is due to their lack of experience in life and this is why you play an important role in their life not only as a parent but also as a teacher and mentor.
The problem with teaching kids how to verbalize their emotions – is a limited vocabulary of a child. That’s why their emotions outburst and they don’t seem to be able to control them.
Very often kids already had a painful experience with nobody understanding or listening to them and this is their helpless reaction to it, similar to a baby’s cry. There are two main reasons for tantrums: number 1 – the child feels that he or she is being misunderstood, and number 2 – the child is manipulating you (but that’s something totally different).
The best tip for calming your child down is understanding what he or she really feels and acting upon it. Let’s start with the child emotions list:
- Negative feelings of your child
- Positive feelings of your child
- Other feelings of your child
As soon as emotion is identified, regardless of what your child does, make sure he or she can be confident of your love for them at any given moment. If they lose this confidence, it will be really hard to get it back later on.
Sometimes, as adults, we tend to think that identifying emotions is very easy because we practiced a lot, but a little guy has big trouble understanding what is going on! So here are a few tips on how to encourage your children to express feelings.
- Anytime you have a strong feeling or emotion yourself, explain it to them.
- Love is also a feeling that needs to be expressed by you for your child to feel happy and secure. Don’t forget to mention what you are expressing and ask them how do they feel? Encourage your child to express feelings of loving themselves.
- When you see an expression of emotion on your child’s face, ask them about it. Guide them toward verbalizing it by using the simplest possible vocabulary for expression. Make sure you don’t criticize or make fun of their emotions. If you do, that could hurt them for a lifetime!
- Show concern for any emotion or feeling that your child may have while expressing it by gestures, face, body language, or behavior, and ask them to identify it. Asking your child questions about their emotions should get you to the root of the problem. If the problem is solvable, great! You just gave your child a lesson of his or her lifetime about controlling emotions!
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