Children's Empathy

Empathy: The One Skills you Need to Teach your Child Now

Jun 08, 2021

In this article, we explore Empathy for children, how important is this children soft skill, and how can you support developing your child’s empathy.


What is Empathy?

Have you ever had someone who felt the same as you even if they are not in the same situation? Did they feel they are in the same shoes as you?

That person has a strong sense of empathy.

When we say empathy, it is being able to know how someone else feels, even when you aren’t in the situation. 

How is empathy developed? Scientists agree that only about 20% of people feel empathy, and the remaining 80% of people need to work on developing it.

Apart from understanding how somebody else is feeling, empathy is also the ability to respond with care in the given situation.

So, all in all, it is a very complex skill. (read more about the 4 soft skills that will help your child stand out).

There are three types of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate.

  • Cognitive empathy means only understanding how somebody else is feeling, such as a child understands that a friend is sad for getting a bad mark. It’s the ability to see things from somebody else’s perspective.
  • Emotional empathy means sharing the feeling of another person, that is the child understands that the friend is sad and feels sad as well.
  • Compassionate empathy means not only sheering the feeling but also readiness to help in the given situation, that is the child is sad for the friend's bad mark and is ready to help the friend with a task/homework, etc.


Why is it important to show empathy?

Empathy is very important for your child’s emotional and social development.

Empathy helps children to develop their social skills and make relationships. Emotional development might contribute more to life success than the intelligence quotient.

For example, if a child has a sense of empathy, not only he won’t bully other children but will defend that child from bullies as well.

It will help the child make true friends and later have a good relationship with colleagues at work.

Empathetic people know how to adjust to certain situations, better understand the needs of others, and can easily understand what’s behind other’s words and actions.

According to a study by McKinsey empathy is among the top skills for the future workforce.

Examples of Kids Empathy

If you are still wondering about a child’s sense of empathy, have a look at the following list of examples:

  • He/she is sad when the friend gets a bad mark and tries to help with a task/homework.
  • He/she is worried when the sibling/friend is ill and offers a toy/hug.
  • He/she understands that mum is angry for the mess and tries to clear it up.
  • He/she feels that a parent is nervous and hugs the parent.

There are many similar examples in everyday life when a child recognizes somebody’s feelings and responds adequately.

Kids can show empathy by letting them realize how a person might be feeling if someone did something to them.


The Power of Empathy Now and in The Future

Acquiring a high-level of empathy on the three cognitive, emotional, and compassionate levels can mean success now and in the future for your child.

Let’s say your child successful practiced empathy with people around him, the results can be quite astonishing:

  1. Your child will make more friends & deeper connections with others
  2. These connections will increase your child’s self-esteem
  3. On top of that, with a greater number of friends, comes more social interactions and opportunities to develop your child’s soft skills by practice.

In addition to this, empathy is one of the top skills needed in the workplace now and in the future. Being an essential soft skill for leadership and success at the work place (read more in a study by McKinsey).

Always remember that empathy is a critical soft skill for your child’s success all around.


How you can support your child's empathy development?

Empathy is to be cherished and developed. It is one of the hardest emotional skills to acquire, and you should encourage and support your child to develop it.

There are many ways you can support empathy and contribute to children’s emotional development, including:


Tell a story.

You can let your child imagine that the family’s dog and suddenly went away from home. 

Ask them: “how do you think the dog feels?”

Imagine if one day the dog was gone and they didn’t know if it was ever coming back how would that feel? Probably, not great if they were that dog. Right?

Lead by example

If you show empathy to others, it is more likely that your child will behave the same way. So, if you want your child to develop empathy skills, the best way is to bring up your child in a similar environment.

Explain emotions to your child

If your child knows and can recognize emotions, it will be easier to show empathy and respond with care. You can help your child identify facial expressions and body language as well. You can do it by showing flashcards or images of faces with different emotions.

Talk about empathy

Talk to your child about the right/wrong behavior of others. Try to show the child good and bad examples of empathy at kindergarten/school.

Teach your child

There are many available resources to teach your child empathy. Try worksheets and games, which will be amusing and educational at the same time, and teach your child empathy through fun and play.

Discuss empathy

Try to discuss real-life or imaginary situations and see your child’s point of view. You might use children’s books about empathy, movies, or cartoons. Use every situation to show your child good examples of empathy.

Speaking about the right time to start to encourage the child to develop empathy the right answer is – it is never too early. The sooner you start, the better the results you might expect.


If you're looking further develop your child's EQ and Soft Skills, you can join our Free Children EQ Email Course.


Manuela Ocampo (Magu)

Early Childhood Educator

Author, A Children's Book About Empathy

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