How Do I Teach My Child To Care About Others? Part One: Model Empathy

One question parents often ask me is, “How do I teach my child to care about others?” The answer may be simple: show care for the people around you. Your son or daughter is watching you! Children watch your interactions closely and they tend to imitate what they see. When you demonstrate positive interactions with your child and others, they are likely to follow your example.

Here are some ways you can encourage your child to develop the caring characteristics of empathy and kindness.

Model Empathy.

Empathy is the ability to consider the perspective of another person. It’s valuing someone, and trying to understand his or her thoughts and feelings.

First, model empathy towards your children. Be considerate of their perspective by listening and seeking to understand how they feel. For example, if you help your child to name an emotion they are feeling, it can show that you value and understand them: “I see you are mad because it’s time to clean up your toys. I know how much you love playing with your trains, but now it’s time to have dinner.” By validating your child’s feelings, and voicing understanding, you are teaching them to consider someone else’s perspective. (Please see my previous blog post on Teaching Your Child to Manage Emotions)

Next, demonstrate the same thoughtful behavior towards other people. Talking to your child about your concern for others, and sharing some of your own feelings will help them to develop compassion for others:

“I think Sarah is feeling sad because you got to the swing first. Sometimes I feel sad when someone else is first.”

“Did you see the smile on Sarah’s face when you gave her a turn on the swing? I think she felt happy.”

You can also use pretend play to teach your child, by making up stories:

“Oh no! The cow isn’t sharing the ball!  The horse is feeling left out.”

As your child grows, discussions about empathy should become more natural and you may be pleased to discover that they remind you to consider the other’s feelings!

Please check back for Part Two: Practicing Kindness.

If you have questions related to supporting your child’s social emotional development, please contact one of our pediatric social workers.

Laura Mauriello, MS, LCSW, DT

Spring has Sprung!

Warmer weather is finally here (or so we’re told). Along with spring weather comes new opportunities to learn language while getting outside and having fun.

Go for a walk
A simple walk around the block can include many opportunities to help your child expand his/her vocabulary.  As we all know, spring in Chicago means construction. Children love watching the construction vehicles and talking about what they see. Name the vehicles and their actions as your child watches in awe.  You can also talk about airplanes, bicycles, and animals as they pass. Try skipping, jumping, or clapping as you walk, and see if your child will imitate your actions. Building gross motor imitation skills is very helpful for language learning.

Go to the park
The playground is a great place for children to learn to interact with their peers. When it is nice outside it is almost a guarantee that you will run into other young children who can act as language models for your child. This may also provide a great opportunity for your child to work on early social skills like turn-taking.

Take a trip to the zoo
Did you know that admission to the Lincoln Park Zoo is completely free? A trip to the zoo will provide a great opportunity to talk to your child about animals, and animal sounds. The Lincoln Park Zoo also has a great sing-a-long for young children every Wednesday and Friday morning at 9:15 and 10:00 a.m. at the Main Barn in the zoo’s Farm-in-the-Zoo.

Meryl Schnapp M.A., CCC-SLP

Picky Eater vs. Problem Feeder

It’s true that lots of children can be described as “picky eaters.” Many children refuse to eat their vegetables at dinner and would prefer to eat chocolate for breakfast. For other children, being in the same room as a food that they don’t like can trigger a meltdown. These same children may avoid complete food groups or certain food textures.

For some children, this “picky” phase will be one that they outgrow. Other children may require therapeutic intervention to broaden the number of foods that they tolerate and will willingly accept.

“Picky eaters” and “problem feeders” may present similar characteristics. So, how do you decide if your child would benefit from feeding therapy? Below is a list of general differences between “picky eaters” and “problem feeders.”

 Picky Eaters vs Problem Feeders

Ultimately, if you have any feeding concerns, always consult with your pediatrician. If your doctor agree that your child is not just a “picky eater”, he or she can refer you to a certified speech-language pathologist. It can be helpful to keep a food log detailing foods that your child accepts and rejects to bring with you to your doctor visit and feeding evaluation. A speech-language pathologist can help your “problem feeder” discover new foods, and can help to create happy and healthy mealtimes!

Julie Euyoque, M.A., CCC – SLP