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Empathy Builder: How To Create An Emotions-Friendly Home

Team StoryWeavers|January 20, 2021|

emotion friendly house

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” — Theodore Roosevelt 

All parents want to raise kind, empathetic children who make the world a better place. However, not all of them take active steps to build empathy in their children. Empathy does take a bit of practice and parents should make a conscious effort to develop it in children. The first step towards that would be to create an emotions-friendly home.  

In this article, we will cover how to help children to express their emotions and create an emotion friendly home with this step-by-step guide. For quicker acceptance by children, you could start with the first step and then go to the next step. This method was listed in the book UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba. 

Step 1: Stop And Tune In

Paying attention to the other person is the basic principle of empathy. Stopping or pausing everything when the other person speaking is the first step towards developing empathy. To translate that at home, you could enforce the 4T rule when others are talking or are present. 

4T rule:

  • No Texting
  • Tapping
  • Talking On The Phone
  • Watching Television

Step 2: Look Face-to-Face

Once the children know how to pay undivided attention to others around them, step two can be implemented. Reading other’s emotions is easier when you look at their face. It helps one to pick the speaker’s tone, expressions, and other emotional cues. Noticing the speaker’s eye colour is one great way to maintain eye contact.  You could also ask the shy child to notice the bridge of the speaker’s nose instead of noticing the eye colour. In the family, you could hold staring contests among children to make them more comfortable with eye contact. 

Step 3: Focus On Feelings

Once the child can pay undivided attention to the speaker and maintain eye contact, you are ready for a third step. Children need to be able to label their emotions to build empathy. Here are a few ways of helping your child build ‘feelings’ vocabulary. 

  • Name The Feeling: You can state the emotion you think the child is feeling to help them understand it better. For example: “You look angry.” “You sound frustrated.”
  • Ask questions: You can pose different questions that help them understand what they could be experiencing. For example: “Are you worried about the test results?” “Are you tense about the upcoming test?”
  • Match emotion with a gesture: You can narrate what you are seeing and then pose a question about the emotion the child might be experiencing. For example: “You are clenching your fists. Are you feeling angry?”

Simply stating your observations, validating the child’s emotions by listening to what is being said empathetically will help them develop the vocabulary needed to express their emotions. 

Step 4: Express The Feelings

By the time you reach this step, children will have an adequate vocabulary to express their emotions and are more likely to search for opportunities to express them. Parents can support this by asking questions such as “How do you feel?” or by using statements such as “You must have felt so good after receiving the prize.” Encourage children to ask such questions as well.  It will normalise expressing feelings in your house. 

This approach will work with younger children beautifully. Parents need to remember that consistency is key. You can also help your children achieve this faster by increasing face-to-face conversations by unplugging often and having at least one meal together as a family

Do you think that this approach will help you create an emotion friendly home? What are some other ways of ensuring an emotion friendly home? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the Author


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Mekhala Joshi

“Me-kha-la!” That happens at least once when she introduces herself to new people. She’s the only ‘Mekhala’ she knows, and she takes a bit of pride in that. She is a quintessential introvert. Mekhala loves tea but cannot make a good cup of tea and often ends up having coffee. She claims that she takes all adjectives as complements unless specified otherwise. Mekhala is an organizational psychologist and psychometrician. She was a class teacher of 36 adorable girls for two years, grade 2 & 3, as a part of Teach For India Fellowship. And has worked as an independent consultant for a couple of years.

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