Empathy is a very important topic of development at La Playa. We talk about it during our “parent talkovers.” And we practice it daily with the preschoolers.
Empathy is our ability to imagine how another person is feeling in a specific situation and respond to them with care. This takes a while for young children to develop. But we can begin to lay the foundation for them while they are interacting with other children at school. There are three main ways in which we do this:
Validate our child’s feelings. Validating feelings is when we restate what we think a child is feeling. Sometimes it is obvious what they are feeling. Other times it isn’t. But letting your child know that you understand they are having feelings and you accept those feelings helps them to begin to understand and accept their own feelings.
Point out the feelings that others are having. Once a child can begin to recognize feelings they are having, they can begin to notice when others are having feelings. It is a natural step for them. At La Playa, we point out the feelings of others when we are helping them process emotions. We encourage our parents to point out the feelings others are having while watching a show together. This gives them practice with identifying emotions in other children.
Guide our children in the process of conflict resolution. Our conflict resolution process is the main tool that we use to help children develop empathy. Our teachers and parents gently guide children to solve problems together. During this process each child gets a chance to tell what happened and how they felt about it. The other child listens. They reverse roles so that each child gets a chance to talk and listen to their friend. After the problem is discovered, the children set about trying to agree on a solution.
The most important part of this process is the listening. This is where children begin to hear that their friend has a different point of view which is crucial in empathy building.
There are many more ways to assist preschoolers with understanding others. There is a great article about empathy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. You can access the article here.
La Playa is a place for children to learn. We learn through primarily play. The children’s interactions with each other provide fertile ground for practicing empathy building. It’s a natural process and very important work for their success later in life.