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Empathy and Kindness Go Hand in Hand

By Too Small to Fail

Empathy and Kindness Go Hand in Hand

When asked, many parents say that they value kindness in their children above many other traits. We instinctively know that social skills like gentleness, kindness, and sharing, are important to the long-term health and well-being of our children. But these social and emotional skills are also linked to empathy, or the ability of a person to understand what another person is experiencing. Without empathy, it is difficult for a person to understand and express many of the feelings that help them get along with others.

According to The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning at Vanderbilt University, young children experience several stages of development that influence their social and emotional skills from birth—and their empathy. From birth through the first few months of life, babies learn how to react to other people’s actions and emotions from their parents and caregivers. If parents and caregivers express loving, calm attention to their children and others, then babies learn that they are loved, and how to show kindness to others. As very young children learn to understand their own feelings, they also learn to understand, and care for, the feelings of others.

There are many ways that parents and caregivers of young children can help them learn more about their feelings, and how to care and express concern for others. Parents and caregivers can do this by expressing love and attention to their babies from birth. They can also use storytime to talk about how characters in books are feeling—anger, fear, love, or sadness. And songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It…” can be adapted to express many kinds of feelings.

Resources for Sharing:

  • Celebrate National Random Acts of Kindness Week with 10 tips for raising compassionate and caring infants and toddlers!
  • In this blog post, we sharing a few tips of our own on how parents and caregivers can nurture empathy in their children from birth.
  • This article from early childhood experts at Sesame Street explain how children learn empathy from an early age.
  • From our friends at the Australian organization Raising Children, this article explains how young children develop empathy.

VIDEO: Can’t find the words to explain how you’re feeling? Singer and songwriter Dave Matthews talks –and sings!—with Grover about feelings in this Sesame Street video. >>

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