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.
I have heard of therapist and psychologist suggest to individuals that it is a good idea if you are angry to go and take it out on your pillow. One person in fact bought a soft object from me that was made for swinging to be used by her client to hit objects in her room – just to get the anger out. So what do you think about this? I believe that if we take to hitting things when we are angry that we are practicing what we would really like to do. In fact we may one day when we are really angry not be able to control ourselves and actually do what we have practiced for all of those years, except this time it may be a real person.
We see this sometimes when someone, usually a man, who cannot control themselves, puts their fist through the wall. Eventually they will hit someone and create some very difficult situations for themselves. So what is the answer? We need to check in with our feelings and recognize that we are feeling anger. When we check in we may recognize that the feeling is not anger as much as it is frustration, jealousy, embarrassment or some other feeling. Once we recognize this we can ask ourselves, How can I calm down? It may be one of the four ways we suggested in an earlier post, or it may be another way that works for us. Then the question is, how do I solve this problem?
How to solve the problem is always interesting because we have an entire list of ways of doing this. Next time we will examine solving the problem.