(Family Features) At some point, many parents will likely find themselves encouraging their children to “be kind” or “be friendly.” While they lead with the best of intentions, nearly all parents will worry about whether their child is kind to others when adults are not around.
“We often encourage children to be friends with everyone, but that’s unrealistic,” said Carter Peters from KinderCare’s Inclusion Services team. “We don’t have to be friends with everyone, but we do need to be friendlywith everyone. When children learn to respect everyone, even those they don’t like, they help create a kinder, more welcoming community.”
While children are generally kind, it’s possible they might internalize societal messages that equate kindness with weakness. With a little help, children can develop a sense of empathy, which can help them have positive interactions with others whether they’re on the playground, in the classroom or at home.
Consider these three ways parents can encourage empathy:
“Children need to learn they can express big emotions, like frustration or anger, without taking those feelings out on others,” Peters said.
Some healthy ways to react to emotional moments could be to find a quiet place to calm down, talk with a trusted adult like a teacher, squeeze fists or name the feeling: “I’m so angry right now.”
The ability to think and react rationally diminishes when angry, so practicing potential responses while in a calm, low-stress state is essential to helping children learn to apply those responses when they’re upset. Having this toolbox of responses to rely on also gives children the autonomy of deciding how best to respond to an emotionally difficult situation, which can lead to a sense of empowerment when they realize they chose to act kindly despite their emotions.
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