Do You Know How I Feel? Empathy and the Young Child

Published: 21st February 2012
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Morality emerges as a child begins to think about right and wrong, recognize with the feelings of others, and act in prosaically ways. While thinking, feeling, and acting are all aspects of morals, this article spotlights on feeling and ways caregivers can endorse the development of understanding in young children.

Empathy, Infants, and Toddlers
Empathy is essential to moral development since it allows us to recognize with the complete range of emotions experienced by others. The skill to empathize develops slowly and appears to be an essential precondition to acting in caring ways.

While it is true that toddlers appear to understand when they cry in response to the cries of other infants, it has been argued that such responses only specify personal pain rather than anxiety for others. The infant does not distinguish himself from others and cannot recognize the source of the cries he hears. Older infants may seek adult comfort or comfort themselves by thumb biting or cuddling a preferred object in response to their feelings of pain.

It appears that kids must first be able to recognize themselves as separate individuals before they can truly feel sympathy for others. This happens sometime around the middle of the child's second year.

How Empathy Develops
According to Teacher Training Mumbai theory of the stages of empathy development, the personal pain reactions of the infant give way to the early stages of true empathy in the two-year-old. The typical two-year-old can recognize the person who is in pain and may offer support. However, the support may be unsuitable. The two-year-old is most likely to offer help based on her own needs rather than the needs of the person in pain.

While teacher training’s explanation of the developmental nature of empathy is strong, there are illustrations when kids respond to others' distress with greater maturity than the theory might predict. Both biology and experience may account for those divergence.

Genetics, Experience, and Empathy
Experience may improve or interfere with budding abilities to empathize. For example, when adults give kids with words to explain emotional states and describe their own feelings of empathy, children become more and more aware of their own and others' emotional states. In school-age kids inductive reasoning encourages development of empathy. However, physical punishment, threats, and scolding may hinder with the child's developing ability to empathize. When children have a warm, loving relationship with their caregivers, they feel protected and that security frees them to think about others rather than focusing completely on themselves.

On the other hand, kids who experience generally pessimistic interpersonal relationships are particularly at risk for increasing antisocial behavior.

How to Teach Empathy
early childhood care and education educators can encourage the child's development of empathy by using a variety of strategies during normal daily activities.

Model Caring Behaviors. One of the best ways to encourage empathy is to model empathetic caring. Talk about your feelings for others and how you share their joys, sorrows, pain, or delights. Tell kids when you are thrilled for them or when you feel sorry that they are sad.
Interpret Emotions. As a circle time activity, invite children to "read" or understand the emotions in the faces of people in large photographs or magazine pictures. Then ask, "Why do you think the girl feels surprised?" and "What could have happened to make the man look so disheartened?"

Role Play Helpful Behaviors. Perform stories about specific helpful acts. By discussing and playing out how to help, kids learn skills and gain insights into suitable helping. At the same time, they learn to take different viewpoints.

Be Supportive. Maintain a warm, helpful relationship with children and set practically high standards reliable with the developmental levels of the children. When a child does something wrong to another child, first show and verbalize empathetic care for the victim. Then point out to the doer how her acts are connected to the victim's feelings. By making the child aware of the consequences of her actions you help the preschooler become aware of the internal feelings of others. When the child understands the reasons for rules, she tends to view the world as a more optimistic, reliable, and significant place .Finally, reason with the child and help her think of suitable substitute behaviors that might be used next time.

as we move into the next century, early childhood educators, in particular, can help our nation meet the challenge of becoming kinder and gentler in our dealings with others. By encouraging the development of understanding in today's preschoolers, we can make a permanent contribution to a kinder, gentler world for tomorrow.

John Cruser holds Master’s in Psychology Degree. He was working as supervisor in teachers training institute.
Currently, He is working as course co-ordinator for diploma in early childhood education (ecce) & nursery teacher training (ntt) courses since last 20 years.

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