Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings and perspectives of others. This is not something everyone is just born with, but something that can be cultivated and learned. It is a crucial skill to develop in order to enjoy successful positive relationships. It is a skill that helps us make informed decisions. We ask for outside perspectives, understand other worldviews, and work together to reach our goals.
One way children learn empathy is through play. Their desire to role play can lead to experiencing different perspectives. Kids who pretend to be a different person also learn how to talk about the emotions of that person.
Exploring other roles means experiencing the world from another person’s point of view. This exploration can also be done through the use of stories, either books or television, where kids can learn how the world affects others. Some research suggests that young children need conversations in order to understand different worldviews and develop greater emotional comprehension. Other research suggests that older kids find that reading the stories themselves is sufficient to think about different perspectives.
How to Teach Empathy
Open discussions about how other people may experience similar situations are helpful to building their understanding. Find those teachable moments as younger kids explore creative play and older kids expand their perception of the world through stories. This is part of how we can explore understanding of others, developing kindness and compassion. Below are some articles with lists of books, movies, and documentaries that parents have found helpful in teaching their kids positive character strengths like empathy.
- Family movies that are centered on honesty, courage, and making responsible decisions.
- Another list of movies with excellent characters that children can model their role play on.
- Pictures books about bullying useful in teaching kids empathy for other people
- Informative documentaries that will inspire thought provoking questions and discussions.