Location,TX 75035,USA

Building empathy through conversation

Building empathy through conversation

Strong empathy skills may help prevent sexual violence

According to research and the CDC’s Stop Sexual Violence Technical package, “the evidence suggests that greater empathy, emotional health and connectedness, academic achievement, and having parents who use reasoning to resolve family conflicts are associated with a lower risk of Sexual Violence (SV) Perpetration.”

Helping children develop a greater sense of empathyor the ability to understand and share others’ feelings – might just help lower the risk of a child hurting another.

If kids are able to pick up on non-verbal cues like facial expressions and body language, they may be less likely to cause harm. And if they have the skills to take the perspective of others, children will be better able to consider how their actions will impact others. In fact, researchers propose that practicing empathy might offer a level of protection from sexual violence when social risk factors like alcohol, anger, or anxiety impair their judgment.

So how can we help build empathy skills early? Like any other skill, building empathy takes practice. Here are a few examples for how to practice empathy and perspective-taking at home. Just starting your protective conversation journey? Click here for some general tips on healthy conversations with kids 👍

Empathy conversation starters for kids:

  • What would you say your friends enjoyed most about their day today? 
  • What did you try that was new today? How did it go? How did you feel about it? How did your friends respond to it?
  • Wow, you tried the [monkey bars], that is so brave. I remember yesterday you said you were a little scared to try them. What helped you overcome that feeling?
  • Show me a face you made today at school. What was a face someone made that you are curious about? What was a face someone made you really liked?
  • Tell me about anyone getting upset today? A friend? A teacher/ counselor/ helper? How could you tell they were upset? What happened? 
  • Who did you play with today? Tell me what you like about them. 
  • Who had a different opinion from you today? What did they think? 
  • Was anyone acting silly or playful during school today? How did you know? What were they doing?

Building empathy can help kids recognize how someone is acting or behaving and what may be behind their actions. Understanding this can help kids respond in a healthy way or be prepared for conversations (helpguide.org). Sound deep? Don’t fret. You got this. It’s like noticing when someone is scared. That’s a skill. That may be a time to be calm and support them, versus laughing at them. And while a smile might not always mean happy, it could mean nervous or unsure, those are all pieces of the empathy puzzle you’re building every time you help a child recognize an emotion or feeling attached to what’s happening around them or how someone’s facial expression looks. Here are a few more questions to help build and model skills around empathy:

  • You pretended your sock was a dog? That’s so silly! (Labeling someone is acting silly helps them learn what being ‘silly’ looks like sometimes)
  • It seems like Sam was encouraging you to…(Labeling that Sam’s action may mean ‘encouragement’ helps them understand what healthy encouragement looks like – something they can model one day)
  • It sounds like you were feeling scared. What made you feel that way? (Labeling that they were feeling scared can help them feel seen and recognize what feeling scared looks like, something they may be able to recognize in others one day) 

Check out our protective conversations link for more about layering in specific protective factors like empathy, emotional health and connectedness, academic achievement, conflict resolution, body autonomy, and more. More blogs coming soon!

Blog contributors include the fabulous Malia Segal, children’s therapist.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *