Why building empathy within your children will help them develop a more open outlook and discourage stigma?
Today is the last day of the Mental Health Awareness Week, and it is our honour to have Help Them Grow with us to talk about building empathy in our children that will help them develop a more open outlook and discourage stigma.
Instilling empathy in children from a young age is a process that takes time and effort, but the open-mindedness it creates is something that will last a lifetime.
You may be thinking, ‘Okay, but what exactly is empathy?’ Empathy is the ability for individuals to imagine themselves in the position of others’ and have an idea of what they’re thinking and feeling. What makes empathy so important is that it cultivates the potential for children to be helpful, caring and responsive towards other people as well as the world around them.
According to this article, kindness has further reaching consequences than expected. In fact, research has found that it positively influences one’s health, self-esteem and overall sense of wellbeing.
Developing a strong sense of empathy can also be beneficial in other aspects of life; interpersonal relationships may be more rewarding, a more successful career may result from a greater understanding of others’ needs and wants, and a stronger presence within the community can provide one with more opportunities to build and strengthen connections.
However, one of the most important obstacles that highly empathetic children will be able to overcome is the stigmatisation and discrimination of mental illness. Stigmatisation, as explained here arises when individuals with mental illnesses are perceived negatively, viewed as being inferior, or have stereotypes attached to them. Subsequently, people with mental illnesses may be excluded from activities, subjected to abuse, and be discriminated against. This kind of treatment can lead to the development of low self-esteem and depression amongst other negative consequences.
Empathetic individuals will be able to understand that those with mental illnesses feel hurt and alienated by discrimination. They will also be more likely to speak out against unfair treatment and ignorance of mental illness which leads to stigmatisation, providing support for individuals who may strongly lack some. All individuals are a valuable part of the community, and it is only through recognition and being treated respectfully that they can contribute to their greatest extent.
As such, it’s very important to build empathy in your children. Here’s how:
- Lead by example
Children tend to model the behaviour of their parents and believe that they are following the ‘correct’ thing to do. Set a good example by helping out others and ensuring that your children are able to view you doing this.
- Allow them to engage with literature and television
Have conversations about the characters in books, television shows and in movies. Ask questions about their motives, their personalities and their decisions to encourage your children to think critically about possible underlying meanings. This encourages them to try and fill the shoes of many different characters and justify the actions they have taken.
- Surround them with a multicultural crowd
Surrounding your children with people who come from different backgrounds familiarises them with the idea of commonality despite differences. This is important because they will understand that different appearances do not warrant different treatment.
- Get them involved in the community
Even having small roles helping out in some way – e.g. once a week volunteering – enables children to be out and about and meeting different people. They will be required to communicate and spend time with others and develop empathy if they wish to truly get along with others and really make a difference.
A child’s future starts with their parents.
Help Them Grow
P.s We appreciate the great insights from Help Them Grow! Be sure to visit their page for our contributing post on healthy communication between parents and child.
Every parent is the role model to their children, teach them to be empathy and build a community filled with love and kindness.