Empathy is a skill – one that we can cultivate and strengthen with practice. Empathy means that we can imagine what someone else is thinking or feeling and then respond in a caring manner. Eight-year-olds understand that other people have thoughts and feelings that are different than their own, and they can use this knowledge to respond to others in a way that meets their specific needs. They can begin to forecast with more accuracy how specific events and behaviors will affect the feelings of people around them.
Social Skills How to Help Your Eight-Year-Old Develop Empathy
Three tips for raising an empathetic child:
Research indicates that reading fiction promotes empathy. Books are an ideal way to both expose children to diverse cultures and to talk with them about struggles people face locally and globally. These three book lists — curated by Common Sense Media, National Public Radio and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center — are a good place to start. While reading, pause to ask questions such as, "How do you think she feels right now?" or "What do you think he needs?"
Encourage Perspective Taking
When your children talk about events at school, on the playground or in the news, help them practice taking the perspective of others: How did their classmate feel in that situation? Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling, and model sharing your own thoughts and emotions. For example, "I felt frustrated because . . ." or "I felt scared when . . ."
Put Other People on Their Radar
As Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd says, "Almost all kids are kind to somebody and have empathy for somebody. The real work is getting them to be kind and empathetic to people outside of their immediate circle of concern," including people of various races, nationalities, ages and abilities. Parents can help kids get in the habit of noticing and empathizing with people outside of this circle. As a starting place, you can point when you notice another child playing alone on the playground or ask your child to tell you about a new classmate — and then talk about how to welcome and include them.
Help Your Child Manage Emotions with Arthur
Whether facing down a bully, worrying about a new teacher or being the very last person on earth to lose his baby teeth, Arthur and his friends manage to solve their crises with imagination, kindness and a lot of humor.Find Activities
Activity Finder: Learn With Your Eight-Year-Old
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PBS Parents Play & Learn
Designed specifically with parents in mind, this app provides more than a dozen math and literacy games that parents can play with their kids. Each game builds on the natural curiosity of children and is themed around a familiar location like the garden or grocery store.
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Stack to the Sky
Bob and his friends are on the job! Your child can carefully choose and stack building parts to create a structure that meets a specified height requirement.
Elmo's School Friends
Elmo wants to play with his friends at school, but discovers that each friend is having trouble with their playtime task. In this game, your child can choose a friend to play with and then decide how to best solve his friends' problems such as stacking a high tower of blocks, cleaning up spilled toys, or deciding who gets a special dress up outfit.