I Know How You Feel—The Personal Side
As cliché as it sounds, children are our future. So, if we are to build a society that both experiences and acts on empathy, we have to start young. Many of the suggestions below were taken from the Harvard University website (https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/resources-for-families/5-tips-cultivating-empathy) which outlines ways to create caring cultures and families.
Here are some things to try if you are wanting to cultivate empathy in your family:
- Model empathy for others. It is natural for us to be empathetic with our children and partners. If your child falls down you may say, “That looks like it hurt. Are you okay?” But modeling empathy for others takes more thoughtfulness. You can do this by helping others in public places when you are with your children. For example, hold the door for someone whose hands are full, offer to assist someone in a store who is in a wheelchair or riding cart and appears to be reaching for something up high, take dinner to a neighbor who is sick. Then later on have a conversation with your child about why you helped the person.
- Provide opportunities for your child to practice empathy. This may look like you prompting them in a store to go and ask someone if they need help. Or, if you provide dinner for a sick friend or family member, have them make a card to go along with the meal.
- Create social awareness. This one is for older children. Whether it is having conversations or watching documentaries about human suffering of various sorts (make sure these are all age-appropriate and also suited to your child’s specific temperament and mental health), help your children learn about and understand the struggles others face in their society, country and even world. And, if your child is so moved, find a way to positively impact whatever issue you are discussing. For example, pick up trash on Earth Day or sponsor a child in Africa who needs food or schooling.
- Limit screen time and expand relational time. Children do not learn how to be with others if they are not in fact with others—in real life and not on line. Honor your children’s positive relationships and make these relationships a priority. Schedule regular time for your children to be with their friends. These relationships, just like their relationship with you—their parent—help them grow in their ability to understand and empathize with others.
Whether your child is struggling with demonstrating empathy, has ADHD, depression, anxiety or is experiencing any other mental health issue, an experienced Orlando mental health clinician can help you. A trained psychotherapist can provide whatever service you need—be it individual, couples’ or family counseling—to make sure you and your family members are living your best lives. Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment.