A report from Today Online reveals that the primary responsibility of raising empathetic children falls on the parents. If the next generation is going to have empathy, a vital human trait, parents must actively teach the social and emotional skills necessary to develop that characteristic. Find out how parents in Singapore can take steps to help their kids show more empathy.

Defining Empathy

Empathy is defined as ” the ability to feel what someone else is feeling in a situation and to respond with understanding and care,” according to Swanie Khoo, a marriage and family therapist. ” Understanding and showing empathy is the result of many social-emotional skills that are developed mainly in the first years of life.”

The Importance of Empathy

According to a specialist in psychiatry, Dr. Chua Siew Eng, empathy is crucial to human social development. “Empathy is a social cognitive skill that helps one to build interpersonal relationships,” she explains. “Social support and cohesion benefits one’s own health, personal life, work and community life.”

Early Signs of Empathy

Dr. Chua’s research reveals that empathy begins shortly after birth. Babies seem distressed when other babies cry. Toddlers can show signs of empathy by trying to comfort or help someone in distress, or by sharing toys.

Learned Behaviours

Infants, toddlers, and young children look to their parents for social cues. They mimic the behaviour that they see and act out the example that the parent sets. If they see a parent comforting someone, giving to someone, sharing an item, or showing kindness, children learn to perform those actions as well. They watch parental reactions and learn responses.

Strategies for Teaching Empathy

Parents can teach children empathy by showing it to their kids, first of all. Making eye contact, noticing a child’s emotions, comforting, encouraging, and supporting the child are all excellent ways to show empathy. Parents who refrain from judging, but instead offer compassion and help to family members, relatives, neighbours, and strangers are teaching their kids to notice pain and try to assuage it.

According to Dr. Gisela Guttman, a Singapore psychologist, “parents should keep in mind that they’re trying to teach and model positive behaviour.” The parent’s job is ” to help children to develop confidently and to understand their own feelings, the feelings of others and how their behaviour may affect those around them.”

Risks to Empathy Development

Adults, teens, and even children spend a lot of time online, connecting through digital means instead of communicating with others face to face. While email, social networks, and texting can be helpful and convenient, they can also hamper the formation of social skills.

When a person is online, whether on a computer or a smartphone, they are in charge of the content that they want to see. They can choose to ignore the reality of people in pain. That’s why it is important for parents to limit the amount of interaction their children have online with friends and others, encouraging them to experience life personally instead of through a screen.

Counselling About Emotions and Reactions

Certain mental illnesses can reduce a person’s ability to feel empathy for others. If your child or teen seems to lack empathy, you can bring him or her to Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic for a brief consultation and possibly some counselling from a qualified Singapore psychiatrist. In a comfortable, secure environment, you can learn additional ways to help your child cope with strong emotions, identify emotions in others, and react in an appropriate way.

News Feed from Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Source: Today Online, 20 March 2017