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Anam Sarah

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Hilal Her

Teaching Empathy and Social Skills to Kids

April 2024

Have you ever pondered what it would have been like to wake up in a morning in the 1990’s? The most captivating aspect of that era would undoubtedly be time - lots of it, in abundance, that won’t pass by fast slipping away and unnoticed in the extended sessions of socialization and intermingling. A serene and relaxed ambiance would be cherished in a home’s lawn, with parents and other family members engrossed in animated conversations over a cup of tea accompanied by laughter. Children seemed much more lively and exuberant in the past, with their constant chirping, giggling, shouting, and celebrating. Today, there is a lack of small moments of festivity and joy, unlike the perfect childhood of the past. Children engaging in Steppo, or Pitthu Garam sequel played by friends, along with other native games, brought about a delightful commotion and fostered socialization and empathy. It was heartwarming to witness children resolving minor disputes and overcoming small challenges. There was an abundance of gatherings, games, interactions, and socialization.



On a typical morning in 2024, we witness scenes highlighting the changing dynamics of entertainment. A young child remains engrossed in watching Cocomelon videos while being fed cereal, cousins gathered on the couch each absorbed in their cell phones, TikTok videos, or captivating Instagram feeds. The children are not very talkative, they don’t share much and seem engrossed in their virtual worlds of celebrations and competition. Even when they socialize, it often occurs in the virtual realm of social media, where they maintain an extensive network of ‘friends’ but only engage in superficial interactions through chats and messaging. It is natural for someone from the 90s to feel a tinge of envy towards the vast array of options available to children of today on social media platforms and the internet. However, it is essential to recognize that the younger generation may lose sight of life’s true essence amidst this abundance.
This transition of human interaction due to technological advancement has marginalized children into a secluded lifestyle, resulting in a lack of socialization skills and empathy in children. On the other hand, aggression and violence have increased due to the overuse of social media with exposure to violent games, immoral content, and bullying. The mother’s lap is the first school that teaches a child about life. This is not limited to the basics of life alone. Instead, it is about the extraordinary values nurtured at this stage of life. The babbling matures into words, the art of questioning, the way to reckon pain, a show of anger, the need for demands, the biological needs, exhibiting disagreement and learning to play, etc., all belongs in the mother’s lap. As a child matures, a mother continues to tame the child to attain responsible behavior in society, where socialization skills are instilled in their personality at a very early stage.
Teaching children empathy involves the instruction, guidance, and implementation of various skills and strategies. Children may struggle with interpreting social cues or refining their social skills because of challenges with managing their emotions or comprehending social situations. Nevertheless, there exist numerous methods for instilling empathy and social skills in children.



Balanced Use of Technology
As parents, elders, and teachers, we need to focus on children’s physical activity and a balanced use of technology to keep them on par with the requirements of the modern world. As children are encouraged to make friendships and play in fields, they learn how to share, collaborate, and distribute. This hands-on activity teaches them the basics of human interactions, like caring and seeking help. At the same time, they learn the small rules made on the playground. The fear of failure and joy of success is overwhelming in the real world where friendships vibrantly teach the fundamental lessons of empathy and socializing.
Be Understanding and Compassionate 
Understanding children’s emotions can foster empathy and help them develop an understanding of others’ experiences. For example, your child starts insisting on having ice cream while you are preparing for dinner. Instead of becoming frustrated, it can be helpful to communicate to your child that you empathize with their emotions. One could argue empathetically; “I understand your strong desire for ice cream at the moment. However, the home rule is that dinner should be enjoyed before indulging in dessert. Let’s jot down a precise time for enjoying some ice cream on the chalkboard.”
Enjoy Gaming
Teaching your child empathy shouldn’t feel like a burden. You can make it enjoyable. Find a spot to sit with your child, whether it’s at a playground or a mall. Attempt to discern the emotions of individuals passing by and analyze the indicators that led you to conclude whether someone appeared joyful, sorrowful, or enraged. This game benefits your child as it helps them understand how emotions can be conveyed through expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
Impact of Siblings
The use of words, volume, tone, and body language affects behavior in children. The responsiveness and support by children also lead to better coaching behavior in younger siblings and friends. Siblings can significantly influence the display and practice of emotion-coaching responses during playtime, which improves a child’s social skills and positive externalization of reactions. Continuous encouragement gives them a sense of appreciation making empathetic responses a permanent part of human behavior.
Demonstrate Empathy
When your child demonstrates a lack of empathy in a social situation, it is essential to lead by example and show empathy yourself. During the walk to school, perhaps another child accidentally drops an art project. Your child bursts into laughter. It can be tempting to correct your child immediately. Instead, offer assistance to the other child. Perhaps you could ask, “May I assist you in reassembling it?” This approach can effectively educate the child about the importance of showing empathy in such circumstances.
Adjust Your Tactics as Needed
If the “How would you feel?” strategy isn’t yielding the desired results, consider shifting the focus onto yourself. Moving the focus from your child to your feelings can be a subtle yet beneficial adjustment. It enhances your child’s ability to empathize with others. It can help ease the intensity of the discussion for a child that is weary of being constantly lectured about social skills.
Seeing is Believing
Lessons on empathy must be taught by example so that children can control their system of overt and covert emotion by copying the practices of their elders. This will encourage children to regulate the many forms of distress they face daily and to generate empathic responses for fellows. A lot of empathy is learned from parents, as children imitate words and actions they see in practice, in their surroundings, like cuddling youngsters, caring for pets, helping someone, or listening to a problem. 

Overall, we need to understand that imparting socialization skills and normalizing empathy in everyday routine is essential to the fostering of  healthy youngsters in our society who can cope with the challenges of tomorrow. It also enables a work-life balance with the efficient intervention of technology, which serves as a servant, not the master.


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Anam Sarah

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