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What is Empathy?

Tips to Improve your Child's Empathic Side

What is empathy? It is the understanding of another person’s feelings. One way to think about it is to imagine standing in that person's shoes and what they may feel, see and be like at a particular point in time. Teaching children to feel empathy for others is an essential skill.

Children can talk about how the characters in their stories were feeling. They can take the perspectives of other characters who maybe portrayed negatively.

Acting out Different Scenarios

  1. Ask your child to choose from a list of scenarios or prepare strips of paper with scenarios to choose. For younger children you can use a picture to start discussion.
  2. Ask your child to plan a skit to show the scenario from two different perspectives 
  3. Help your child act out the scenarios 

Here are some examples you can use:

  • Imagine you are in the playground. A bully approaches you and demands you give him your snack money. What would you do? 
  • Michael’s parents are getting divorced. At home he often cries while he hears his parents shouting so loudly at each other. What would you do? 
  • You are in the park. A man comes over and asks you to help him find his puppy. Your mum told you never to go with strangers but this man is nice and he said the puppy is nearby.What would you do? 
  • You go to a family gathering. Somebody at the party touches you and you feel uncomfortable. You think maybe you just imagined that you are uncomfortable but there is a bad feeling in your stomach.What would you do?
  • You are going to be in the school play. You have the lead role. You keep waking up at night in a sweat imagining that you forgot all your lines on the stage. What would you do? 
  • Your best friend Michelle moved to another school. Now you have no friends at school. You are all alone at recess. You feel lonely and sad. What can you do? 

Puppet Making

Puppets can be made from socks, wooden spoons, felt and many other materials.

Feelings faces can be put on the puppets faces to encourage discussion of such emotions or they may simple represent different characters.

Encourage children to use their puppets to act out scenarios from stories, problems that have arisen in at school or home . Most importantly, allow children to develop the text of their plays so their true feelings are discovered.


Poetry can be a great way to develop emotional intelligence skills, including empathy.

Two voice poems and other types of poems are beneficial in developing empathy.

Poemtherapy is a great tool for examining feelings through artistic means as well.

What is the Definition of Empathy

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