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Building Empathy in Your Child During the Pandemic

Medically reviewed by Mia Dacumos, MD · Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Apr 29, 2023

Building Empathy in Your Child During the Pandemic

The pandemic has lingered on for over a year and this has been an intensely stressful period for everyone. Many families have lost loved ones or had someone close to them battle the COVID-19 virus. Frontliners are exhausted and many people are still separated from their loved ones due to travel and other restrictions.

As parents, you definitely feel the stress of it all, and protecting your child remains a priority. You may think that your little ones are doing okay because they’re mostly at home and with you. But the truth is that the pandemic is just as frightening and confusing for children as it is for adults. The world that they knew has changed in just a year – they no longer see their friends, teachers, and other loved ones in person and they see and hear scary news.

Fostering empathy in children is a good way to help them overcome these trying times and distressing feelings.

Why Empathy in Children Is Important

Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s emotions and state of mind, and see things from their point of view.1 An important social skill to have, empathy forms a crucial component of a person’s emotional intelligence (EI). The measure of a person’s EI is also known as their emotional quotient, or EQ. Having high EQ levels is a valuable attribute and is associated with many benefits for both children and adults, including better performance in school2 and greater success in life3.

Specifically during the pandemic, empathy in children can help them feel and stay connected – to their friends, family, and other loved ones. Being able to read another person’s emotions and comfort them brings about a sense of calmness4. In other words, having empathy for others can help children regulate their own scary or confusing emotions. By empathizing with the plight of those who may have lost loved ones, or have to work long and tiring hours in hospitals, kids are strengthening their EQ in many ways, while learning to be compassionate and thoughtful.

Ways To Encourage Empathy in Children During the Pandemic

Parents can help their children learn empathy and foster stronger emotional intelligence in them in the following simple ways:1, 5

1. Help them stay connected

With all the social restrictions in place and minimum face-to-face interaction with others, it’s easy for children to become introverted and shy. The pandemic has also forced many people to put their health and interests first and this may rub-off on children too, causing them to think about only themselves. But by ensuring that your children get the chance to connect with loved ones and family in times of pandemic, whether digitally or while maintaining social distance in person, you’re encouraging them to care about others. Make sure you and your children ask after the health and well-being of those you are talking to.

2. Help others

While it’s best to limit children’s exposure to alarming TV news reports and programs, depending on their age, you can still keep them informed about what’s happening around you. Talk to them about those who are less fortunate than your family or have suffered loss due to the pandemic. Ask your child about how they think these families might be feeling and get ideas from your child about how you can help. Source charities who work with those in need and encourage your child to think about what they’d like to donate. This process encourages empathy in your child and the act of helping others will also help lift your child’s spirits.

3. Be kind

Kindness and empathy go hand-in-hand. Your child doesn’t have to engage in grand gestures of kindness to develop strong EQ – even little things go a long way. It could be as simple as keeping some food and water outside for hungry birds and animals. Or reviving a dying plant. You child can learn how to be kind through other gestures, like bringing a cup of water or food to their sibling (or other family member) or simply giving out hugs to everyone at home. Teach your child to be kind to themselves too and take a break, especially if they are feeling overwhelmed by online school or the pandemic in general.

4. Show your child what empathy looks like

You are your child’s first teacher and what you say and how you behave will influence them too. You could do this by explaining to your child just how much frontline workers are doing for people and expressing gratitude for their services. Make it a point to thank those who deliver groceries and other items to you. If you model empathy, you can be sure your child’s EQ will be strengthened by it.

5. Talk about your child’s feelings

An important part of having high emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own feelings. Talk with your child about their emotions and ask them what they’re feeling. Help label those feelings, empathize with your child and share with them that you too sometimes feel worried or scared. Reinforce the fact that you’re always there for them, and that you are in it together as a family. The more you empathize with your child, the more they’ll empathize with others.

Learn more about developing IQ and EQ here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mia Dacumos, MD

Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Apr 29, 2023

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