One of the challenges with today’s fast-paced, technological age is that it’s so easy for our children to stay planted in front of their computer screens and remain completely absorbed in their own digital lives.
Once upon a time, we had to look up new information by going to the library, getting an encyclopedia, and interacting with multiple folks along the way. Now we just click a button and never have to look outside the square computer screen.
What’s more, our kids often get in the habit of not thinking for themselves – they simply copy and paste whatever they find through Google.
I mention these things, because I fear these tendencies can slowly chip away at our empathy.
In the digital world, many people forget “real” humans are on the other end of comments, messages, and postings.
This lack of connection is a breeding ground for bullying and general insensitivity (we only need to take a glance at the YouTube comments to see that).
When our children are in that environment, and they’ve grown accustomed to not thinking too hard for themselves, they can end up having a narrow vision towards everyone around them — both in-person and online.
Why should they consider someone standing next to them when they’ve had little experience relating to others and have never had to think too hard for any answer?
So, how can we make sure our children are learning the all-important skill of empathy? The answer isn’t to give up on the Internet or technology but to make a special effort to teach them how to recognize and relate to the emotions of others.
As mothers we can do this by, first, modeling the behavior. Make sure they see you considering the feelings of everyone you come in contact with and explain to your children why empathy is important.
Make it obvious to them by saying something like, “This person might be having a hard day because of ____, so let’s make sure we treat them with extra kindness.”
The more you do this, the more they will get into the habit of looking outside themselves and seeing what other individuals are going through.
While seeking opportunities to model empathy, don’t forget to show empathy towards your own children. Before nagging, disciplining, or even speaking to them, think about what types of challenges they might be experiencing and react with understanding.
Remember, things that may not seem like a big deal to an adult are major issues for youngsters, so try to think back when you were a kid and put yourself in their shoes. When on the receiving end of compassion, they can better understand how it feels and have a truer sense of why they’d like to pass that good feeling on to others.
Finally, give your children more opportunities to practice empathy by exposing them to a variety of people and places. You can do this by providing them with opportunities to serve others, introducing them to individuals who are different, and encouraging them to make real-life connections away from the computer screen.
By making the effort to teach and reinforce empathy, your little ones will grow into kindhearted adults who can control their emotions and are capable of taking another person’s perspective.
I will be running a webinar on 25th August 2014 at 8pm on how you can prevent bullying for your child.
Raising empathetic children is one of the crucial tips I will be discussing. Please register your seat at this essential webinar for every Mother here.