Children learn empathy from their parents

Empathy makes children strong

Self-esteem, resourcefulness, intelligence - there are many qualities that make it easier for people to find their way around in life. But science is increasingly focusing on one characteristic: empathy is a prerequisite for a fulfilled and successful life. Here you can read how children can develop empathy.

Learning what is going on in others is important for the future of the children. Image: Lordn, iStock, Getty Images Plus

The essentials in brief:

  • When parents approach their children emphatically, children are also able to feel compassion for other people.
  • According to various educationalists, being emphatic is an important prerequisite for a fulfilling life.
  • Through targeted questions and discussions about their feelings, parents can bring empathy closer to their children.

Excited noise comes from the nursery. “That’s my bus. De dörf d'Emely nöd ha », shouts Kai. And Emely yells: “Mommy! The idiot would have sniffed me! " An everyday situation that parents know like this or a similar one.

If the mood is so heated, it is difficult to bury the argument and find a constructive solution - it is not impossible. Fortunately, negotiating and contracting can already be learned at kindergarten age. The prerequisite for this is empathy - the ability to empathize with the experiences and emotions of others.

People need such empathy in order to understand and get close to one another. Does Emely know how important it is for her brother that his bus is in his play parking lot right next to the excavator - even when he's not playing with it? Can Kai imagine how Emely feels when he pushes her? Whether a person is empathic or not is understood precisely from the ability to recognize this.

Empathy as a prerequisite for a successful life

For some years now, educational science has been focusing more and more on empathy. Being empathetic is a prerequisite for a fulfilled and successful life. Australian researcher Dr. Brad M. Farrant from the University of Western Australia / Perth puts it this way: "The ability to empathize with other people is key in today's society."

All our lives we need other people who are happy with us, with whom we rub each other, with whom we work shoulder to shoulder on common goals that are important. That means: it just doesn't work without others. We have to be able to take a position, understand other positions and look for solutions that are fruitful for all. This can be achieved with empathy.

The easier we get along with other people, the better the community carries us through life. "In the near future everyone will recognize that empathy is the hardest and most important currency of all," says the Dane Jesper Juul, one of the most famous family therapists in Europe.

Empathy through good contact with one's own feelings

It is therefore important that children learn to be empathetic, that they develop an idea of ​​what is going on in other people and that they learn to express emotional participation.

This includes the competence to be able to perceive what is going on in your own thoughts. Develop an emotional sensitivity. "The better our contact with ourselves, the deeper our understanding of others can be," says the Danish family therapist Jesper Juul.

Parents can support their child's access to their feelings by naming them and thus showing compassion. "Oh yes, that was cold," is what they say, for example, when the child quickly pulls their hands back from the water jet.

"Oops, now you are scared," parents can say when the child tripped over their own foot and is now sitting on their buttocks crying in surprise. "There is Mommy, there you are happy!" is cheered when the child happily stretches its arms towards its mother.

Reading tip!

Empathy through good role models

"Teaching empathy - parents can do that by being sensitive themselves," says Uwe Trevisan, founder of the Cologne conflict training academy for children, parents and educators. Children orient themselves to the behavior of their parents and if they approach them with empathy, children are also able to feel compassion for people.

Parents who are mindful of the feelings of others will see children grow up who also feel and respect the feelings of others. "Parents should try to keep up with the feelings of their children, they should ask how they feel and take their emotions seriously, not hurt them," says Andreas Schick, co-developer of "Faustlos", a guide for schools and kindergartens with the help of which children learn to get along with each other without violence - in other words: fist-free.

How nice when Emely and Kai are not scolded by their mother because of their argument, but instead are comforted first, feeling their mother's emotional participation. In the end, the heated argument upset and hurt both of them. In this way, they experience compassion - and with it the very skill they need to end their argument.

If the mother also offers to help them find a solution, she is also a good example of helpfulness. Empathetic people recognize when their fellow human beings need help.

Read and discuss a lot

Children can understand other people better if their mothers and fathers often talk to them about other people's feelings, for example when reading aloud. This was the result of a scientific study by the Australian researcher Dr. Brad M. Farrant.

With the help of books, children can practice at an early age to put themselves in other roles and to look at situations from new perspectives. “Why do you think the little bear is so sad?” Can be a question, for example. "What would you do now if you were the little bear?"

Book tip

"Together: How empathy makes children strong." By Jesper Juul, Peter Høeg, Jes Bertelsen, Stehen Hildebrandt, Helle Jensen, Michael Stubberup. Beltz Publishing House.

Parenthood app

Have you heard of the ElternSein app? It provides useful information on upbringing and family life. Parents and carers receive tips on important topics, which are sorted according to age. Specialists conveniently convey proven knowledge and practical assistance for trying things out using short film sequences. You can download the app for free.