Ever worry that your kid is insensitive? Or wish they would do something kind on their own? Empathy can be developed and encouraged in young people.
Lots of parents are alarmed when they see selfish traits in their kids. The main reason behind this is that- the main part of the brain responsible for empathy is particularly undeveloped in young children. Empathy and caring are skills to be learned. In general, parents need to be cautious about globalizing any egocentrism they might be perceiving in their kids at the moment. In truth, it’s developmentally typical for children to consider themselves first; it gives them a better chance of surviving.
There is one important truth parents need to remember: in your role as a parent, “right now” is all you have to focus on. Yes, you are building skills to last a lifetime. But you are doing so in the present moment – right now. You don’t have to let the experience of right now make you fret about what your child will be like at age 15 or 20; so much development will unfold between now and then.
Professionals who have rigorously studied child-development, have been surprised at developmental leaps children have made in just weeks and months. So, parents shouldn’t give in to the temptation to worry that any phase – whether it’s selfishness, sleep problems, homework meltdowns, or something else– will last forever. Give your child a few months to work through this phase and know that as long as you’re there loving her, guiding her, teaching her, and providing a consistent presence, she’ll get through it and learn the skills she needs in order to thrive.
One of the most hopeful messages that professionals can give parents is that the skills they want to help their kids develop are built during normal interactions. The most important parenting work is done not only when parents have serious ,meaningful conversations with their kids, but just as often, read to them, argue with them, joke with them,or hang out together.
When it comes to empathy, lecturing a child is rarely useful. Much more powerful will be the example your kids see you set and the extent to which you demonstrate what it means to listen to others, consider their perspectives and opinions, and care about them. That kind of modeling, particularly how you show compassion for them when they are having a hard time, will help your children build their capacity for empathy.
Parents could try to draw their kid’s attention to other people’s experiences and minds and help them consider the feelings of others. They should occasionally ask them about their friends; like “how they are doing?”, “if they are in a difficult situation and if yes, why is it so?”, “What do they think their friend needs to do to cope with the difficulty?”, “How can we help?” Simply by drawing awareness to characters’ emotions and motivations, you help your kids move outside of himself and realize that the people have their own interests and considerations, quit apart from their own.
Another very important thing parents should do, to help guide their kids towards being more empathic, is to allow them to experience negative emotions on their own. Bubble-wrapping kids can prevent the full development of empathy, which often emerges directly from having experienced negative emotions themselves. Each time you allow the kid to feel sad or frustrated or disappointed, instead of immediately distracting him or rushing in to fix things, his potential for empathy grows, since his struggles open up space within him to understand and identify with the pain of others.
Empathy allows us to keep in mind that each of us is not only a “me”, but part of an interconnected “we”. Recognizing this combination helps produce an integrated self – which leads not only towards caring for others but also towards living a life full of meaning, connection and belonging to a larger whole.
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