Why it’s important for kids to show compassion and empathy

In their early developmental years, children don’t fully comprehend how their actions affect those around them. Their area of focus is primarily on themselves and their immediate needs. As a child grows, they become more aware of others and their needs, and have a greater capacity for emotional intelligence. To ensure healthy development and growth, it’s important for kids to show compassion and empathy.

Researchers are concerned about the impact of social media and technology on interpersonal relationships, with studies highlighting a 48% decline in empathetic concern for others over the last few decades. With social media bridging the divide between the masses, children are communicating online more than ever before. The concern is that children will become less conscious of the impact of their digital footprint and lose sight of how content may be interpreted by others, particularly potential future employers. Children can’t always recognise when they’re not being empathetic.

The ability for children to demonstrate compassion and empathy benefits the whole child – not just in their early years but well into adulthood as well. Educational psychologist, Dr Michele Borba, describes empathy as a key social-emotional skill that not only helps to promote positive wellbeing but is also a catalyst to your child’s lifelong success, in every aspect of their daily lives.

Encouraging compassion and empathy in your child is really important, and here’s our top four reasons why you should make it a priority:

  1. Helps foster stronger relationships

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing or feeling. It is an important life skill and is something which is learned over time. The key is to start instilling healthy habits and attitudes early. A child who can demonstrate empathy is able to build stronger relationships with others and relate to and connect more deeply with those around them. Harvard has outlined five ways that families can look to cultivate empathy in children.

  1. Encourages tolerance and acceptance

A child who is able to consider another person’s perspectives is less likely to get angry, frustrated or annoyed at others. Low empathy is linked to increased bullying, narcissism and stubborn belief systems. Further studies suggest that people who learn empathy and compassion are less likely to commit mean-spirited actions such as bullying, because they are able to consider the impact of their actions on other people.

  1. Promotes good mental health

A US study highlighted the correlation between having empathy and a positive attitude towards oneself, others and events in one’s life. The researchers discovered that individuals who make an effort to improve their empathy reported experiencing less negative emotion, such as anger.

Further, through the relationships that are fostered by demonstrating compassion and empathy, positive mental health is promoted as your child will have a supportive network of friends.

  1. Supports future professional success

Showing compassion and empathy also sets your child up to flourish in the future. Empathy leads to thoughtful problem solving, because it encourages an individual to put themselves in another person’s shoes. Employers recognise this as an essential quality in an employee, with studies ranking empathy as an essential skill required to succeed in the workplace.

As parents, make it your commitment to raise children who show compassion and empathy – individuals who love their neighbours and put value the needs of others above their own.

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