Instilling children with compassion and kindness early on can help them become better communicators, friends, leaders — and can even enhance their creativity, according to a 2021 study from researchers at the University of Cambridge. To help you model empathy for the kids in your life, here are three simple tips to try:

1. Incorporate gratitude into their routine

Whether at the dinner table, in the car, or while getting ready for bed, ask your child to recite one thing they’re grateful for. Adding a gratitude practice into their daily routine will help them develop a habit of giving thanks, and will lead to increased empathy as they grow.

2. Give back as a family

There’s immense value in lending a helping hand to others, and research shows that giving back has a positive effect on the receiver and the giver. Whether you come together on Sundays to deliver groceries to the elderly or join a virtual volunteering program online, giving back as a family will hone your children’s empathy skills. 

3. Ask about their emotions

Children learn values based on interactions and conversations they have with those around them. So if you want to teach them compassion and empathy, ask them empathetic questions, such as, “What was the hardest part of your day?” or, “How does the change to virtual learning make you feel?” When you ask your kids questions that help them tap into their own emotions, they model that behavior toward their own peers, and seek to better understand and identify with others.

Author(s)

  • Rebecca Muller

    Senior Editor and Community Manager

    Thrive

    Rebecca Muller Feintuch is the Senior Editor and Community Manager at Thrive. Her previous work experience includes roles in editorial and digital journalism. Rebecca is passionate about storytelling, creating meaningful connections, and prioritizing mental health and self-care. She is a graduate of New York University, where she studied Media, Culture and Communications with a minor in Creative Writing. For her undergraduate thesis, she researched the relationship between women and fitness media consumerism.