Nurturing Empathy in Your Child: Infancy to Adulthood

Photo of Empathy ME Guest, Megan GunnarIf we think about the kind of friend, spouse, care provider, boss or public leader we want, we probably would name empathy as an essential quality. Empathy encompasses seeing through another’s eyes (cognitive empathy), feeling what that person feels (emotional empathy) and taking action that is attuned to that person’s feelings (compassionate empathy). But how does someone become empathic? At what age are children first capable of empathy? And what is the role of parents and other adults in nurturing empathy as children develop?


In this episode of Mom Enough, Dr. Megan Gunnar, professor in the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, joins Marti & Erin to discuss early signs of empathy in infancy, the growing capacity for compassionate empathy in the toddler period, and simple, practical ways parents can encourage and expand children’s empathy in everyday interactions at every stage. Nurturing empathy is one of the most important things we can do to help our children grow up to be the kind of people we hope they will be. And it is one powerful way we can be leaders in making the world a better place for all! Thank you to Mom Enough’s longtime supporting partner Help Me Grow for bringing this episode to you.



Thinking of children in your family, when did you first notice signs of empathy in them? What have you done (or could you do) to help them develop and use what Dr. Gunnar calls “compassionate empathy”? And what steps can your whole family take to deepen your empathy toward all, even people who seem different from you in background, experience or beliefs?



THE DANISH WAY OF PARENTING: AN INTERVIEW WITH JESSICA JOELLE ALEXANDER. Denmark has frequently been ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world. It is a culture that celebrates togetherness and hygge (cozy conviviality), teaches empathy, and believes children should have a voice and be respected. All of these factors play a part in how Danes parent. Tune into this Mom Enough episode with Jessica Joelle Alexander, best-selling author of The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids.


❉ HELPING CHILDREN BUILD EMPATHY: A DISCUSSION WITH UNSELFIE AUTHOR, MICHELE BORBA. When people ask author and educational psychologist Michele Borba what kids need to be successful and happy, she confidently proclaims, “Empathy!” And yet, our popular culture, with its emphasis on “I” and “me” seems to fly in the face of empathy as a core value. We’ve all seen kids and adults alike constantly snapping “selfies” to document their every move. What other factors have contributed to these changes? And, most importantly, what can we do now as parents, teachers and other caring adults to make sure children build this important quality of empathy from the earliest years? Dr. Borba joins Marti & Erin for a rich discussion in this Mom Enough episode. Tune in to hear her practical strategies for putting empathy front and center in your child’s life and in the life of your whole family.


❉ RAISING FEMINIST BOYS: DR. BOBBI WEGNER DISCUSSES GENDER, SEX & EMPATHY. Psychologist and author, Dr. Bobbi Wegner joins Marti & Erin for a compelling conversation on the importance of teaching our children — and especially our sons — about sex, consent, identity, gender, and empathy.

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