We are social beings.
The human being needs social interactions to survive, making cooperation and teamwork something within our nature. If we are not with others, if we do not work together, if we do not help each other, we do not survive.
Values such as empathy and kindness ensure our survival and future success in our lives.
What is the difference between these two concepts?
Empathy is the ability to understand other people's feelings and thoughts. It also understands that the other person may feel and think differently than we do and still deserves our respect and understanding.
Kindness is a behavior; it is the quality of behaving in a helpful and considerate manner towards another and doing actions that benefit others. Kindness is the opposite of selfishness; it is thinking about others and doing something that benefits them and not oneself.
Why is it so important to cultivate empathy and kindness in childhood?
First of all, it is essential to know that a child who shows empathy and kindness to others has a much higher chance of success in the future than those who do not.
An empathetic and kind child will be loved more, surrounded by supportive people, less involved in fights, and more likely to continue with these values in their adult life.
Children learn from us since they are babies, and we are responsible for teaching them these important values for their lives that will help them develop with success and feel fulfilled and in harmony with themselves.
Simple ways to build these values in our children:
- Reading stories is one of the best ways to cultivate empathy in our children. Through this activity, we get the child involved with the characters, and we can take advantage of it to ask them about their feelings. Questions such as How is x feeling? Why do they feel this way? What could make x feel better? These questions are excellent ways to teach our children to understand emotions, differentiate between themselves and others, and seek solutions to help others feel better (which also cultivates acts of kindness).
- Children learn from us, so another excellent way is to show them how we feel. Examples such as "I'm tired after a long day at work, would you help me set the table" or "It makes me sad that you talk to me that way" help the child to see the other's perspective, to understand what they are feeling, and learn how to name different emotions.
- It is also very important that the children talk about their emotions at home. When they come home from school or at dinner time, it can be a great moment to talk about how everyone felt during the day. Some questions that can be helpful for this moment are: Did someone do something funny today? Did someone do something kind? Who made you smile? Did anything make you feel scared today? Did anyone get hurt today? Who did you play with at recess today?.
With these kinds of questions, we work on empathy since we show the child that we are interested in knowing about them and how they feel, and we also work on kindness since we make him think not only about them but also about his peers.
- Another way to strengthen empathy and kindness is to teach your child about diversity and help them know people who are different from them, whether by gender, skin color, or life experience. You can choose books or television programs that include these stories. Learning these values allows the child not only to be kind to those who are similar to them or are part of their daily group.
- Finally, we can cultivate these values by teaching our children to include kind actions in their everyday lives. An example could be donating money to charity, helping the elderly in the street, or, if they are older, going to volunteer somewhere they choose. If the child is too young, the adult can do some of these actions, and the child can observe. A child who grows up in an empathetic place and cares for and helps others is more likely to reinforce these values in their personal life.
We all want a united and more equitable world, and we are working as a society to achieve it. One place where we can begin to cultivate acts of kindness is in our home, teaching our children and leaving a legacy that makes us feel fulfilled.
“Kindness is a silent smile, a friendly word, a nod of encouragement. Kindness is the single most powerful thing we can teach children” RAKtivist.