Development of empathy in a child from an early age
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand their feelings. This ability develops in a child from an early age, when he just begins to interact with the world around him. When a three-month-old child expresses his needs in the presence of his parents and reacts to the objects of the external world, he learns the first lessons of interaction with people. Over time, the child develops this skill more and more, in the course of interaction with parents, he learns to communicate using non-verbal signals and develops speech.
The better parents can teach a child to understand the nuances of communication, to recognize verbal and nonverbal signals indicating the reaction of the interlocutor, the more solid Foundation they lay in the development of the child’s empathy skills. When a three-month-old baby signals to you about his emotions (for example, when crying, experiencing hunger), your attention and reaction to his signals, as well as your ability to understand his need at the moment teach the child to pay attention to the verbal and nonverbal signs of others. Seeing the reaction of others, he also learns to properly signal their needs to achieve the desired result.
What does it look like in practice? The child makes sounds, in response, the parents also make the same sounds; the child pulls the handle to the mother, the mother in response touches his hands, etc. These are the first forms of communication that can continue for the first four years of the child’s life. The more complex the signals and reactions that the child will master during this period, the better he will be able to understand the verbal and nonverbal signals of others in the future and, accordingly, the better he will learn to achieve the desired result of such interaction. In order to recognize and correctly interpret the signals that the child gives, you must be able to put yourself in his place, understand his signals, respond to them correctly and instill in the child a sense of security. By doing so, you will create a solid Foundation for his empathy.
When you help your child understand your verbal and nonverbal cues and teach him to signal his needs, he will begin to form the first forms of consciousness. If the child already understands emotions by your nonverbal signals, then seeing you in a bad mood, he feels sad. Thus, he is already able to perceive the emotions of others and respond to them.
When the child is one and a half years old, you may notice how he tries to calm down another person who is experiencing negative emotions. In 2 years, the child can Express their assumptions about what the other person feels, and in 3-4 years, he understands the nuances in the non-verbal signals of others and the emotions that lie behind them. The child feels pleasure in his ability to comfort another person. The skills acquired from infancy are built into a more complex system of emotional skills that the child can use throughout life. Parents should further develop these skills, helping the child to recognize and name subtle emotions, to understand the differences between them, to identify these emotions in themselves and others. This is another step in the development of empathy in a child.
For example, if earlier a child, seeing the manifestations of negative emotions in his father, concluded: “Dad is sad,” then over time his conclusions become more accurate: “Dad is upset about something.” Accordingly, such conclusions lead the child to a more complex reaction. The better the child learns to recognize shades of emotions, the better he will develop empathy for others.
Creating conditions for the development of empathy during interaction with the child, showing attention to the emotional signals of others, naming their emotions and the emotions of others, telling the child about how to respond to the emotions of other people, you teach him to empathize with others. As the child develops, you can tell him that the expression of emotions in different cultures has its own characteristics. So he will learn to react sensitively to the emotions of others and will develop these skills throughout life.