Four Step Empathy Building


  1. Stop and tune in: hit the pause button and tune in, no digital devices. Set and enforce the 4T rule: no texting, tapping, talking or TV viewing when others talk or are present.
  2. Look Face to face eye contact how children learn to read emotion. Always look at the colour of a person’s eyes. Holding eye staring contests is fun!  Look at the nose to start if uncomfortable with eyes.
  3. Focus on feelings:
    1. Name the feeling: “You are feeling sadness,” or “I see you’re anxious.”  Do not judge your child’s feeling, listen empathetically and validate the stated emotion.
    2. Pose tune in questions: “Are you angry, tense, worried?”
    3. Match the gesture to the feeling: Tune in on body language, “You seem to be scowling.  Are you angry?”
  4. Express the feelings; use the vocabulary to express the feeling; “You must have felt very scared, upset, confused?” Then a child can learn to say “I am feeling sadness.” Start with how you feel, then move to “How do you think Johnny felt?”  If you feel bad and you want to feel better say how you feel.  It is like medicine – it feels better after you do it.


Play pick a feeling at dinner using emotion cards. Pick an emotion such as proud. Tell about a time you felt proud this week.

Describe how you feel and why? “I am so excited; they delivered my new computer.”

Have your children ask Dad, Mom how their day went.

Coloured circle system:  Mom or Dad post your feelings as Red, Yellow, Green to signify mood.  Red show concern, Yellow, You Okay? Teach kids to ask about feelings.

Build feeling vocabulary: aggregable, annoyed, anxious, betrayed, brave, calm, capable, caring, confused, content, creative,  depressed, disappointed, ecstatic, enraged, embarrassed, fearful, friendly, frustrated, generous, gloomy, ignored, hurt, insecure, impatient,  jealous, lonely, loving, overwhelmed, panicked, relieved, peaceful, pensive, safe, satisfied scared, worried.


From: UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me-World, Michelle Borba

160 King St W. #200E
Dundas, ON , L9H 1V4
Telephone: 905-220-8028
Fax: 1-866-409-2665

Contact Us
Recent Posts