In today's discussions about child development, much attention is rightly given to fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and cognitive growth. However, the crucial aspect of nurturing social skills in young children, such as kindness, empathy, and politeness, often remains overlooked.
In my encounters with parents at school, inquiries often revolve around a child's motor skill development or their table manners during meals. No one asks me as their child's teacher, about their child's generosity towards peers or their kindness towards school staff and others.
Why Empathy Matters?
Empathy is an ability to understand and share another's feelings making children compassionate, kind, and caring individuals. It equips them to develop better relationships and promotes kindness in interactions with peers and others. This understanding promotes mental well-being, happiness, and social harmony, and reduces the likelihood of bullying.
10 Activities to Foster Empathy and Kindness:
- Say Something Nice Everyday: Encourage your child to say something kind to a friend daily, cultivating kindness as a habit. Extend this habit beyond friends; compliment teachers, janitors, grandparents, and others. Engage children in helping at home, in the community, or globally, promoting kindness, caring, and diverse interactions.
- Magic Words Rule: Introduce a rule of using 'magical words' in daily conversations starting from age 2. Children learn by observing, so let them see you say "thank you" for help, use "please" when requesting, and say "sorry" if you've hurt someone unintentionally or otherwise.
- Sharing: Teach sharing as an act of care by encouraging kids to share toys, food, or belongings with friends, a valuable skill even for 2-year-olds. Start by sharing your own toys and playing together. Organize playdates to promote sharing among toddlers, even if they're protective of their belongings; emphasizing sharing as a positive habit early on is crucial. Remember, the first two years are mostly about inputs; you'll see outputs later.
- Sentence Completion Game: Engage children in completing sentences to express emotions. For instance, "When I see my friend sad, I…" or "I get hurt when..." Encourage your child to complete these sentences to understand their feelings and teach them about others' emotions through this activity.
- Kindness to Animals: Cultivate empathy through caring for animals, whether by playing with pets, attending to their needs, or participating in animal-friendly activities. Plan outings on birthdays or weekends to feed animals and emphasize the importance of never disturbing birds' nests or throwing stones at animals. Our actions serve as models for their behaviour.
- Teach about Uniqueness in People: Discuss differences and similarities among friends, family members, and parents, emphasizing individual preferences and interests. For instance, explain how one girl may like cars while another prefers dolls, and how boys might also have varied interests in cars, toys, or games. This fosters acceptance and understanding. Suitable for children aged 6 and up.
- Practice Roleplaying: Engage in roleplaying exercises to help children understand different perspectives and emotions in various situations, enhancing their empathy and social skills. Make a kindness board and calendar to follow and do some acts of empathy every day, this will inculcate the habit of doing so. good and will come out naturally once they grow up.
- Foster Problem Solving: Encourage your child, in times of conflict or when facing a problem, to consider the perspective of others before making judgments or decisions. The phrase "Walk in someone else's shoes for a mile to understand" is a helpful concept for children aged 4 and above.
- Read Stories with Moral Lessons: Expand your reading materials beyond stories lacking moral lessons. Incorporate narratives that emphasize kindness and empathy, such as "The Invisible Boy" by Trudy Ludwig and "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein, "I am human" Additionally, crafting bedtime stories that impart valuable lessons on empathy and kindness can be a wonderful practice. I share several such stories with my child each night before bedtime.
- Praise the Empathetic Behavior of your child: Acknowledge and praise empathetic actions to reinforce positive behaviour and encourage its continuation. Empathy and kindness activities contribute significantly to a child's social and emotional growth, nurturing understanding, compassion, and positive relationships with others.
LOVE AND SUPPORT ALWAYS...!!