Four tips for parents and children

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Being able to put yourself in the shoes of others and understand emotions is an innate ability. However, children need to learn this. But how?

Most of us probably care about feeling understood and respected. This also includes our fellow human beings recognizing our needs and feelings and taking them seriously. The people around us will feel the same way, they will also have compassion. The ability to empathize with others is called empathy. A word that can almost be recognized as a trend in the social context these days, especially in the professional world. Social skills with empathy are increasingly in demand among employers and employees.

The fact is: Empathy is basically innate, but it needs to be developed and encouraged, especially in children. People in Denmark are very dependent on fostering empathy in their upbringing, with their special LUCKY formula. The better the parents function as a good role model, the faster their own child learns to respond to their environment, to be considerate and to develop compassion. Simple everyday tips to promote empathy can help!

Learning empathy: According to scientists, parents are important role models for their children

To learn compassion and empathy, children need adults who model social behavior for them. (Iconic image) © Irina Hess/Imago

“Parents who pay attention to their children, who talk to them, who listen to them, who read to them, do a great many things – and can thus positively influence the child’s development. This is particularly important in the first years of life: the personality, the sense of morality and justice or the ability to feel with another person are formed in this phase,” says science author Dr. Ranga Yogeshwar.

In the knowledge program Quarks, the journalist Yogeshwar refers to a study with children conducted by researchers from Heidelberg and Leipzig, which shows how even the smallest children develop this capacity for empathy. Developmental psychologist Prof. Sabina Pauen from the University of Heidelberg and developmental psychologist Prof. Daniel Haun from the University of Leipzig were able to prove that children learn to empathize with others at a very early age, even as babies of around ten months.

“Children don’t only learn when we try to teach them. Basically, children learn it all the time from their social environment – because children are faced with the task of finding their way into the social structure, into the culture they grow up in, learning the behavior and social rules. It also gives us adults and parents a certain role model function and thus also a responsibility,” says Prof. Haun, summarizing the results of the study.

Learning empathy: Psychologist explains what parents need to consider

Put yourself in other people’s shoes – children learn this a little better with each passing year, also and especially through observing adults. This includes the ability to apologize to others – parents should not “force” their child to do so too early, it can also be learned. Instead, it is better if they model compassion for their offspring by being empathetic and less narcissistic towards their own child.

According to psychotherapist Ulrike Schneider-Schmid, parents can help their own child learn empathy. In conversation with the portal family she goes into four important pieces of advice:

1. Positive role model function of the parents

It should always be important to maintain a warm, loving and respectful relationship with each other. Children learn about the behavior of adults and imitate it. If there are quarrels in the family, it can be tolerated towards the child – in this way he learns early on how conflicts can be resolved. Exemplifying and showing empathy is better than explaining it. The child then best recognizes what empathic behavior is and what he himself can do when someone around him is sad or hurt.

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2. Inductive parenting style

An inductive upbringing stands for initiatives whereby parents point out their children’s abuse and the associated effects on other people. If parents keep making it clear to their child that their own behavior has consequences, it will help them empathize with others. According to current knowledge, this form of training is far more effective than punishment and scolding. And it also contributes more to values ​​such as consideration, compassion or politeness – saying thank you and asking – being internalized by children.

3. Recognition and praise

Parents can encourage their child’s ability to empathize by recording and commenting on the behavior of the little ones – as soon as the offspring shows sympathy in situations – for example with a facial expression, a gesture or a little praise.

4. Learn compassion through books and stories

A child learns empathy wonderfully through characters in books and stories. When they read (to) children, they can relive many experiences that they have not been able to have themselves, internalize them and then put them into practice.

Psychotherapist Ulrike Schneider-Schmid therefore emphasizes how important it is to read aloud together. “Empathy is a complex interaction between different emotional, linguistic and mental components, which requires a certain maturation. Be lenient with your toddler the next time she happily squeals and tears at your hair with sticky fingers. Oh yes, it hurts, but it just can’t know it yet. His brain is only at the beginning of a long, long learning process,” says Schneider-Schmid family.

This article contains only general information about the respective health topic and is therefore not intended for self-diagnosis, treatment or medicine. It in no way replaces a visit to the doctor. Unfortunately, our editors are not allowed to answer individual questions about clinical images.

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