Showing Empathy

You’ve had some bad news and collapse on the couch a little teary-eyed. Your toddler comes to you, pats your back or even gives you a hug. Does she really understand that you’re sad?

She does!

 

At this age, children begin showing awareness of others’ feelings and will try to offer comfort if they’ve experienced that from you and others in their lives. In this stage of independence, tantrums and bossiness, this is a delightful development.

It Can Also Be a Tough Time

The development of empathy can be a hard road. As your child begins to realize more clearly that his needs are different from the needs of other people, 2 important things can follow: conflicts and the true onset of feelings of empathy.

Beginning at around 18 months of age, toddlers begin trying to find out how they are different from others. They may test different actions—even those they know are not allowed—to see how you will react. And you may notice this continuing even now.

As trying as these experiments may be, they sow the first seeds of empathy. As your child continues to grow, his understanding of others’ wants and needs—even if they are different from his own—will expand as well.

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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