Red Nose Day returns on May 23, 2019. Red Nose Day is a campaign dedicated to raising awareness and money to end child poverty. This is part of a sponsored series to help children learn about poverty in America and around the world, and witness intimate stories of hope, perseverance, and the heroes that help make a difference in people's lives. Watch more videos at nbclearn.com/rednoseday.
Empathy, or the ability to understand and respect another person’s perspective, is the foundation of all human interaction. It is at the root of a child’s ability to be kind and compassionate. A child’s sense of empathy appears early in life, which can be seen in the way that infants cry when they hear another baby cry or when they try to console one another on the playground. Studies have found that when young children take another person’s perspective and apply it to their interactions, they are more likely to succeed in social settings and are better-liked by their peers. As your child grows, they are beginning to recognize what others are feeling, and you can help teach them about empathy and its importance at every age.
Show your child empathy.
Listen carefully as your child talks, acknowledge what they say and ask them questions about their feelings and thoughts. As they get older, children’s capacity for empathy can mature through social interactions, although for some children it happens more naturally than for others. Have a picnic with your child. You can invite a few of their furry friends or action figures over and ask them about their day. If they tell you about a difficult encounter, ask your child how they felt and what they think the other person in the situation felt, and have them tell you what they could do the next time.
Education consultant and blogger Jennifer Miller adds that you may also want to teach your child how to react and deal with strong angry emotions instead of lashing out with their words and hands. If your child needs to vocalize anger, ask them to roar like a lion, or go to a safe place to cool down. Miller says that it’s good to practice these reactions so that your child is better-prepared to deal with certain situations.
Help your child explore other perspectives and roles.
Reading stories or watching movies together is a fun way to share and learn how people deal with common issues like making or losing friends or handling conflicts. While reading or watching together, ask your child to tell you about ways a character solved a particular problem. “How do you think he’s feeling?” and “Why does she feel that way?” are always good questions for younger children.
Educational psychologist Michele Borba suggests making feelings a core part of everyday conversations. “Kids need an emotion vocabulary to discuss feelings and guidance to become emotionally literate,” she says. Research has found that when families routinely do this, kids can learn a lot about other people’s perspectives and how their minds function.
Teach your child to be empathetic.
Maurice Elias, the director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, suggests that when a peer or a sibling is physically hurt or upset, you should encourage your child to reach out, see what’s wrong and offer to help. He says that too often, people retreat in fear when others are in distress, but those with empathy can identify with the hurt feelings and try to make the situation better.
Another way to encourage your child’s empathy is to expose them to other children and families who have fewer resources than your own family. For example, you could research poverty in the United States. 1 in 4 children living in the rural U.S. grows up in poverty, so it’s very likely that people in your own community are experiencing poverty. Watch below how one mobile clinic works to bring medical assistance to kids who need it in rural Tennessee. You could watch this video with your child and then discuss how you can be part of the solution to some of these problems.
Do community service with your child.
Borba says that community service should be a family affair. Provide opportunities for the whole family to serve others and experience giving in your community. Ask your child to help you gather items from your home that you would like to donate, and deliver them to a local shelter. Or volunteer your time at a food bank during the holidays and take part in the activity as a family. This will give you a chance to explain to your child how and why others may be in need, and help show him the importance of helping others.
One way you and your child can get involved is by turning empathy into action through Red Nose Day, a campaign that raises awareness and money to end child poverty. Watch stories below of kids making a difference through Red Nose Day, and helping support those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
There are moments, big and small, every day that parents can teach their kids about empathy. Through repeated exposure to other people’s perspectives and feelings, you can raise an empathetic child who cares about others and gives back to the world.