I Know How You Feel: Raising Empathetic Kids—The Personal Side
I do not watch football, nor do I follow sports—not that I am against them I just don’t. So, I am very surprised I am going to write about Tim Tebow in this piece on empathy, but here it goes.
Recently, I read about several motivational speakers at a book release party. Tim Tebow was not present at this event; however, one of the speakers had recently interviewed him so they played the interview for the audience at the party. Now, many people have a variety of strong feelings (ranging from extremely positive to negative) about Tebow, but some of the things he shared about his childhood are relevant to our discussion of children and empathy.
The interviewer asked him how his parents—specifically his mother—raised him to be a giving, kind, compassionate and empathetic man. Tim shared that his parents were missionaries to the Philippines during his childhood where he had many opportunities to witness his parents helping and teaching others. He said most of the great things he learned from his mother happened just from “watching her live her life.” He talked about how his mom would help people in need or sacrifice something so that others could get what they needed. He said learning from his parents was not about listening to “great lectures,” but about watching them live their lives in a way that constantly showed love and empathy to others.
This brings me to my next two ways (adding on from the first two ways in the practical blog on this topic) to encourage feelings of empathy in your children.
3. Quality Face Time: This is a term I came up with recently. What I mean by this is two things. First, spend quality, uninterrupted time with your children WITHOUT screens. Take a hike, go swimming, play a board game, go out for ice-cream, etc. Second, when appropriate (don’t make it feel forced), talk about your feelings in age-appropriate terms. For example, when your 2 year old angrily throws a toy across the room and it hits you say, “I feel angry and sad when you throw things and they hit me.” When your child who is 8 says something hurtful say, “I need to be alone for a few minutes. I feel sad that you said that.” Then you can talk about it and make up later.
Children equate time with love, so do your best to carve out time for them each day and week. And second, make talking about feelings face-to-face a common practice in your home.
4. Service: Find a way (once your child is old enough) to serve others. Visit nursing homes, make meals for sick family and friends, walk your neighbor’s dog, collect canned goods for a food a pantry, volunteer at a food pantry, feed the homeless at a shelter, etc. Tim Tebow said he learned to love others well by watching his mom do so. Find a way that you and your child can serve others and when possible be with others who are lonely or hurting. This naturally stirs up empathy in our hearts and reminds all of us—adults included–that everyone needs a friend.
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