by Mrs. May Gruia
CHA Social Worker (Grades K-8)
Mrs. Gruia has a heart for the social and emotional development of children of all ages, and we are excited as she shares helpful insights for our parents. Look for her articles here and in CHA’s Parents’ Page newsletter.
Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes or to understand things from another’s perspective. It is a vital social skill linked to higher emotional intelligence, social competence, and overall higher school achievement (find out more here). Over the years, however, our children’s overall empathy levels have declined, leading to more social and friendship conflicts.
A recent study has revealed that college students today scored 40 percent lower on empathy scales than college students 20-30 years ago. This has an impact on their future career and home-life success. There are many theories as to why this shift has taken place including the increased use of technology.
How do we help our children become more empathetic? Is it even something that can be taught? Below are three helpful tools to use along with links to further information:
- Help your child identify facial expressions and emotions in themselves and others. (Here is a great resource for understanding facial expressions.)
- Help your child understand another person’s feelings and viewpoints. For example, if there is conflict between your child and another person, ask them to try to guess what the other person was feeling or what the other’s motives may have been. (Find out more here.)
- Show empathy to your child by tuning in to their feelings and emotions. Ask them how they are feeling. Guess their emotions based on their facial expressions and explain how you got to that conclusion. Showing your own child empathy greatly helps them to be more empathetic themselves. Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project has these and many other techniques you can use.