“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” — Theodore Roosevelt
As good citizens, we want to see a friendly and happy neighborhood and happy community of friends around. It is needless to say that empathetic citizens are the path breakers to make it happen and make our world a better place for us to live. However, not all of them take active steps to build empathy in the neighborhood. Empathy does take a long time to build unless it is seen in practice and citizens should make a conscious effort to develop it in their homes first. The first step towards that would be to create an emotions-friendly citizens and especially the youth population. ( Done )
In this article, we will cover how to help children to express their emotions and create an emotion friendly home with this step-by-step guide. For quicker acceptance by children, you could start with the first step and then go to the next step. This method was listed in the book UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba.
Step 1: Stop and Tune in
Paying attention to the other person is the basic principle of empathy. Stopping or pausing everything when the other person speaking is the first step towards developing empathy. To translate that at home, you could enforce the 4T rule when others are talking or are present.
- No Texting
- Talking On The Phone
- Watching Television
Step 2: Look Face-to-Face
Once the children know how to pay undivided attention to others around them, step two can be implemented. Reading other’s emotions is easier when you look at their face. It helps one to pick the speaker’s tone, expressions, and other emotional cues. Noticing the speaker’s eye colour is one great way to maintain eye contact. You could also ask the shy child to notice the bridge of the speaker’s nose instead of noticing the eye colour. In the family, you could hold staring contests among children to make them more comfortable with eye contact.
Step 3: Focus on Feelings
Once the child can pay undivided attention to the speaker and maintain eye contact, you are ready for a third step. Children need to be able to label their emotions to build empathy. Here are a few ways of helping your child build ‘feelings’ vocabulary.
- Name The Feeling: You can state the emotion you think the child is feeling to help them understand it better. For example: “You look angry.” “You sound frustrated.”
- Ask questions: You can pose different questions that help them understand what they could be experiencing. For example: “Are you worried about the test results?” “Are you tense about the upcoming test?”
- Match emotion with a gesture: You can narrate what you are seeing and then pose a question about the emotion the child might be experiencing. For example: “You are clenching your fists. Are you feeling angry?”
Simply stating your observations, validating the child’s emotions by listening to what is being said empathetically will help them develop the vocabulary needed to express their emotions.
Step 4: Express the Feelings
By the time you reach this step, children will have an adequate vocabulary to express their emotions and are more likely to search for opportunities to express them. Parents can support this by asking questions such as “How do you feel?” or by using statements such as “You must have felt so good after receiving the prize.” Encourage children to ask such questions as well. It will normalise expressing feelings in your house.
This approach will work with younger children beautifully. Parents need to remember that consistency is key. You can also help your children achieve this faster by increasing face-to-face conversations by unplugging often and having at least one meal together as a family.
Do you think that this approach will help you create an emotion friendly home? What are some other ways of ensuring an emotion friendly home? Let us know in the comments below.