Empathy is a crucial element of children’s social-emotional development and as educators and parents, it is important to instil this value in their early years' education, says Tanja Spasojevic, General Manager of Ora, the Nursery of the Future in Dubai.
“But what is empathy? In simplistic terms, empathy is the emotional attachment with other human beings. It is the ability to feel, recognise, and respond to the needs and preferences of other people,” she says.
“In today’s time, empathy is an essential skill for children during the early years' education. Studies suggest that that kids who are able to consider the feelings of others engage in more positive behaviour and turn out to be responsible citizens of the future. When young children develop empathy, they not only succeed in school and life, but they also impact their communities in positive and extraordinary ways.”
Spasojevi shares some tips that that parents and educators can do let children understand and imbibe the value of empathy:
1. New experiences
To shape the children of the future, expose them to revolutionary technologies, futuristic ideas and empathetic experiences. Let them be involved in serving food to labourers, use public transport, learn coding and more. The more your child experiences and learns, the better are the chances for the child to understand the world and practice empathy.
2. Learning from stories
In the early years, stories and fables are the best form of positive education. Tell children stories of your own choices, oversights, and adventures so that they can learn from the wisdom and understand how to be empathetic in such situations to themselves and others.
3. Digital platforms
Digital platforms are changing the way we live and operate. Some of these platforms are a great tool for children to learn, however that should be limited as much as possible. If you and your child see something disturbing on television, such as violence, illegal activity, or poor moral behaviour, talk to your child about what you saw and how it made them feel.
4. Love and care at home
To ensure your child develops empathy, it is important that your child feels loved, cared, heard and understood. Appreciate and respect the child regardless of external accomplishments, to connect emotionally and develop empathy. Positive surroundings can help them realise their self-worth and be more caring and enduring.
5. Empathy needs practice
Empathy is not a fixed trait, it develops over time. Teach children that the more they practice, the better they’ll be at understanding another’s thoughts and feelings. Let them embrace the world positively and encourage wonder, curiosity, and fun.
6. Positive citizenship through modelling
As parents and educators, it is important that you teach children in early years the importance to model empathy by helping them connect with others in need and keeping away from anti-social elements. Modelling empowers children to act out of empathy and kindness.
7. Importance of discipline
Don’t just issue a punishment when your child does something wrong – take the time to explain why rules exist, and how they ensure we treat people with respect.
8. Feeling the feel
Talking to children about the death of a family dog or avoiding talking about a sick grandparent might seem like ways to spare a child's feelings. But doing so can offer children the opportunity to experience universal emotions like sadness and loss, making them more empathetic.
“Today’s children have exposure to several futuristic and game-changing technologies like advanced science and artificial intelligence. These revolutionary technologies can not only instill leadership; happiness and positivity; but can also help them to be empathetic citizens, allowing them to choose their own paths of self-discovery,” said Spasojevic
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