Those of you raising infants have probably noticed that babies pick up on our emotions. They cry when we are upset- or look tense when we are. This can be frustrating for us as parents- dealing with an upset child on top of our own emotions is hard- but what our kids are showing us is the early stages of empathy. They know what other people are feeling, even if they don’t know what to do with it yet.
As children grow older they learn that other people’s emotions are separate from their own. They learn that their actions impact other people’s feelings. And they learn that other people might not find comfort in the same things they do.
We can help our children grow their empathy. Look at each of the pictures below and discuss them with your children. You could ask questions like:
- How do you think this child is feeling?
- Have you ever felt that way?
- What might have made them feel that way?
- If they are feeling sad, angry, or upset what could someone do to help them feel better?
If this is really easy for them, you can introduce some new feelings words, such as exuberant, frustrated, exhausted, bored, confused, rageful.
Some of these pictures are intentionally ambiguous. Sometimes it’s hard even for adults to determine how someone is feeling. It’s great to talk about how sometimes we’re not sure exactly how someone is feeling.
By Meg Thomas