Empathy in Child Development: How Essential Is It For Our Kids' Development?

Learn about the importance of empathy in child development and how it contributes to our kids' ability to understand and solve problems, have great relationships and lead happy lives .

Sun Jul 3, 2022

Empathy is one of the most powerful developmental capacities we have as humans, and that’s why it is a crucial element in child development. Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand or feel what another person feels, think like them, or cares about” (Stanislavsky). Essentially, it means understanding another person through their experiences. This capacity allows us to care about others by imagining what it’s like for them to experience something ourselves. 

Empathy plays an important role in children’s development because it allows us to see things from another person’s perspective. This awareness of other people allows us to understand how they might feel and why they might react a certain way in certain situations. The capacity for empathy is essential in helping children grow into happy, well-adjusted adults who can communicate effectively with others and solve problems intelligently and ethically.

How Empathy Works in Child Development

Empathy is a process of becoming aware of and understanding another person’s experience as our own. It is a personal, internal capacity that all humans have. This capacity is formed through practice, focused attention, and an internal dialogue that includes both our thoughts and feelings. The result is an ability to “see” another person as a separate, living, thinking, feeling human being. 

Teaching kids empathy at an early age helps them develop heir heart centre. With this, they are able to have deeper friendships and good relationships, not just in their childhood, but throughout their lives.

When they are able to see things from other people’s perspectives, they turn out to be kind and loving human beings, who are capable of solving a conflict amicably in an unbiased manner.

Not just this, empathetic kids also develop a helping nature and reach out to those in need. This goes a long way in developing them into people others can rely upon.
All of this results in forming strong connections in their brain, which helps them have a good mental and physical health.

When to Help a Child Feel empathy

Empathy is a skill that develops over time, perhaps beginning during childhood and lasting into young adulthood. It is not a fixed or innate capacity; it is a developed capacity that results from consistent practice. There are several times when we can and should help a child feel empathy. 

Some of these include-

  1. When their friend/sibling gets hurt- Kids can be taught to empathise with their sibling/friend when they get hurt. This can be done by asking the child to help their friend/sibling with their homework, or anything else the friend/sibling needs.
  2. When someone close has suffered a loss- Loss of a loved one can cause a great deal of sadness and anxiety to the close ones. We can help our kids empathise with those who are undergoing this.
  3. When parents/grandparents need help at home- When kids see their parents/grandparents doing chores at home after a long, tiring day, they can be taught to offer help. This helps them develop empathy.

Helping a child feel empathy can be a challenging task. We often need to show empathy not just to understand what someone is feeling, but also to show that we understand what they are experiencing as well.


Empathy is a crucial human capacity that allows us to understand and connect with other human beings. It allows us to care about others by imagining what it’s like for them to experience something ourselves. Empathy can improve a child’s capacity to communicate and solve problems. It can also improve their emotional and relationship skills. Parents, caregivers, and teachers can encourage and learn from the many benefits of empathy. By modelling empathy ourselves, we can raise empathetic kids who are kind and loving. Doesn’t the world need a little bit of that?

Darshan Bawa
Founder- BodhiShishu, Social- Emotional Learning (SEL) Coach for kids.

Passionate about enriching children's lives through meditation.

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