Empathy is the ability to be aware of, understand and be sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another and to express that understanding through a supportive response.
Studies show that around two years of age children start to show genuine empathy, understanding how others feel even when they don’t feel the same way themselves. Not only do they feel another person’s pain but they actually try to soothe it (Parents. com)
You can use reading my book, Rupert’s Snowman at story time as an opportunity to practice empathy by asking the following questions ( The Q and A follows this)
Page 29. Who is upset?
Frosty and Rupert
Page 29. Why are they upset?
Rupert doesn’t want to leave Frosty. Frosty doesn’t want to be left alone.
Page 32. What does Rupert do to soothe Frosty’s sadness?
He throws his arms around him and whispers his rescue plan.
Page 34. What does Rupert’s mummy do to soothe Rupert’s pain?
Rupert’s mummy takes his sadness seriously and helps to carefully place Frosty on the sledge.
Page 38. What makes Rupert happy?
He rebuilds Frosty in the garden at home.
Page 42. What makes Frosty happy?
His snow family.
Rupert’s Snowman is a true story, I asked Rupert s couple of questions about the events if that snowy day, he was 4 at the time.
Me: Why were you upset to leave Frosty on the hill?
Rupert: Frosty felt very special to me and I wanted to have him as a friend.
Me: Frosty was made of snow. Did he feel real to you?
Rupert: Yes, he felt as real as my school friends.
Me: Why did you ask “Who will look after Frosty?”
Rupert: I was worried about him, I thought he’d be sad without friends.
Me: What did you do to soothe Frosty’s pain?
Rupert: I brought him home with your help so he would be happy which made me happy.
Me: Why did you build a snow sister, 2 snow kittens and a snow dog?
Rupert: So Frosty would have a family to be with if I couldn’t be there.
Taking your child’s sadness seriously ( however small the problem) is the first step to bringing up an empathetic human being.