Empathy is defined as “the capability to share and understand another's emotions and feelings. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes.” As a child it’s important to learn and internalize empathy. It allows children to better understand the world around them.
Children, however, are not born with an empathy gene. They are born believing the world revolves around them. As they grow and mature, however, the reality that there are other’s in the world who have no true interest in making their day better comes into focus…..slowly….and for some real, real slow.
Why should anyone care about empathy? In this self-centered world we live in, our surroundings might suggest that looking out for “number one” is not only in fashion, it’s necessary.
Research, however, says that without empathy our children are likely to do worse in school and in life. Kindergarten teachers report that as many as 50 percent of children entering school are not ready to learn. A big component of that missing readiness is in social and emotional competence. This competency of emotions and the social set of skills (including empathy) make it possible for your child to learn.
University of Illinois at Chicago researchers recently completed an analysis of 300 research studies. The findings were that 50 percent of academic success is dependent on social and emotional literacy. The other 50 percent relied on intelligence. To put it in simple terms, raise your child’s social and emotional competence and you raise his or her test scores.
School work and academics aside, relationship studies have established that kids with higher levels of empathy have more satisfying relationships in life. They tend to be more successful in the workplace. Kids who do well academically find themselves to be better adjusted socially. They are more empathetic and therefore happier. Internalizing empathy gives outward success in school and the community at large.
Clearly, empathy is an understanding we as a human race seem are not teaching, mirroring and encouraging our children to embrace. It's possible this is an emotion many adults have forgotten about. Re-learning it, understanding it and teaching it to our youth is a great step toward self-esteem, consideration and better grades for our youth.