Depending on the age of the child, understanding the feelings of others may be difficult, if only due to developmental reasons. A five year old has one emotional ability and a 12 year old another. One thing though that does happen is that when they are angry no matter there age or training – they will be blinded to someone else’s feelings.
Developing this empathy will help them to understand that all of us have feelings and just as we react to how others treat us, we too can react to how others feel. Some children though who have had painful lives, may defend themselves by shutting down their sensitivity to others. Or they may use intimidation and fear as a part of their defense.
Teaching empathy is a two fold. First every child needs to understand feelings and they need adults around them whom they can trust. With our younger children, increasing their “feelings vocabulary”, is very important to them identifying both their own and others feelings.
If we find older children are having difficulty with understanding the feelings of others, encourage them to write down stories in a journal. If they have a problem get them to write or or talk about what happened – from the other persons point a view.
Finally as a parent or teacher, describing our own experiences and the emotions that we feel can be very helpful. They can identify that you have faced difficult situations or may still be dealing with them, and they will learn to empathize.