According to Dr. Michele Borba, award-winning author of Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine there are 3 types of Empathy:
Affective Empathy - when we share another’s feelings
Behavioural Empathy - when we are driven to acting with compassion
Cognitive Empathy - when we understand another’s thoughts or step into their shoes.
When we help kids to develop each of the different types of empathy, we teach them how to truly care for others, by appealing to their humanity. Furthermore, we encourage them to become the best versions of themselves and seek to bring out the best in others.
But nurturing empathy in kids isn’t all about frills and fluff. It’s way more than just helping them to share and be kind.
It affects our kids’ future health, wealth, authentic happiness, and relationship satisfaction, and it fosters resilience to overcome setbacks. It also reduces stress and boosts trust, creativity, connection, kindness, prosocial behaviors, and moral courage, and is an effective antidote to bullying, aggression, prejudice, and racism. Empathy is also a positive predictor of children’s reading and math test scores and critical thinking skills, prepares them for the global world, and gives a job market boost - Dr. Michele Borba.
Christmas is a time for giving and togetherness. Even for the non-Christians who recognise this season, it’s a universal time that people engage in increased acts of kindness and love towards one another. There couldn't be a more apt time than the Christmas holidays to teach our kids some lessons on empathy.
Here are three simple things that you can do with your kids this Christmas season to help them to develop affective, behavioural and cognitive empathy:
1. Do an act of charity together.
This may be anything from making a few sandwiches and giving them to the homeless or donating a gift to an underprivileged child.
2. Have discussions about how less fortunate people might be spending Christmas.
Talking about how different Christmas may be for people who are mourning the loss of loved ones, or dealing with many other unfortunate circumstances, can help your kids to put themselves in others’ shoes and even make them feel more grateful for what they have.
3. Encourage your kids to be mindful of other kids’ feelings when talking about Christmas.
This is a furtherance of point two. Help your kids to understand that Christmas isn’t all about presents for many other kids so it’s important to share and involve them in play and discussions.
May this Christmas season fill your hearts with love and empathy.