According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, ’empathy’ means ‘the ability to understand other people’s feelings and problems’.
In parenting one’s child, attitudes and behaviour we want our child to cultivate are more often ‘caught’ rather than ‘taught’ (meaning if they see it in us they will more likely do it). However, I think empathy can be taught too.
Firstly, how do we as parents, improve our ’empathy’ skills?
We can do the following:
1) Observe human behaviour
Sometimes we can only understand why people behave the way they do if we observe others’ actions
2) Learn new things
Pick up different experiences so that one will be able to relate to others ( better understand where they are coming from).
3) Cultivate self-awareness
If you have ‘skeletons in the closet’, gradually learn to ‘let [them] go’ so that these will have less of an effect in clouding your judgement when your child shares with you their perspectives
4) Accord every person a respectful right to exist
Additional ways of nurturing kindness in yourself, home, children, others :
1. Be daily inspired by quotes
2. Cherishing written notes, cards or messages from friends /family and revisiting these messages from time to time
3. Consult with teachers/ mentors/child’s role models
4. Use kind words in passing
5. Read and share good stories
6. Use positive words in self-speech
7. Self – regulating one’s thoughts as one grows older
8. Read books from good sources
9. Dropping a call, a text (as and when) to people you know
Being empathetic requires kindness. Kindness is a character quality that does not sprout up overnight. It needs to come from intentionality and practice. It can be taught.