BlogGood Behavior for KidsCompassionate Vs. Empathetic – Why Both Are Important for Kids

    Compassionate Vs. Empathetic – Why Both Are Important for Kids

    Understanding the differences between compassionate vs. empathetic feelings and teaching your kids about them is one of the best ways of enhancing your children’s emotional development.

    You can radically transform how your kids perceive the world by teaching them the difference between the two while helping them navigate their own emotions and feelings.

    Parents can also develop their children’s emotional quotient (EQ) from a young age when they talk about compassion and empathy. A high EQ has long-standing benefits in developing their social adjustability and overall attitude towards life. Kids can also learn highly complex topics better when they can put themselves in the shoes of other people and problems, especially as it relates to reading comprehension.

    Difference Between Empathy & Compassion

    Small girls playing with blocks together compassionate vs empathetic

    While parents may consider both elements of emotional learning necessary, it is beneficial to understand their differences. We may use them interchangeably, but getting to the core of the differences can help.

    Let’s Start with Empathy

    What is Empathy as it Relates to Children?

    Empathy is the emotion of feeling another person’s sense of being or feeling in a way that can help you understand their situation better. It is also described as an awareness of another person’s feelings and a desire to understand the root cause. Empathy is also a strong emotion when parents want children to be more responsible with their chores, daily activities, and sharing toys.

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    Why is Empathy Crucial in Today’s Day & Age?

    Empathy is crucial in today’s digital era, with kids evolving to a more fast-paced lifestyle. It is essential to teach kids the right emotional understanding strategies to help them gauge other kids’ emotions better while also responding compassionately.

    What is Compassion?

    In terms of semantics, compassion relates to the feeling of acting to help someone in need. While we may feel empathy for a situation, compassion is the driver of action to assist them.

    Kids who get injured playing or express stress through their actions should invoke a feeling of empathy. The need to help someone, share a toy, or talk to a quiet kid, is driven by compassionate helping.

    Why Parents Should Teach Children About Compassion & Empathy

    Small boys playing outside in garden compassionate vs empathetic

    To truly understand the differences between compassionate vs. empathetic feelings, kids should explore the role of these emotions within an engaging setting. When kids think about their feelings about other kids, they may focus on the immediate next act to respond to their thoughts. Parents should encourage their kids to slow down and think about how certain events make them feel to help them process events better.

    By empowering children, parents can make them feel like a part of the world from a young age. While empathy and compassion can be intuitive, they can be taught through the right exercises and activities.

    1. Strengthening a Kid’s Sense of Belonging

    A child’s wellbeing and sense of security improve when they are more aware of their surroundings. If kids are nervous about new situations, new people, or new surroundings, understanding compassionate vs. empathetic emotions can help them adjust.

    Kids can also read their parents better and understand when they feel stressed about a particular situation or action.

    2. Resolving Apathy and Motivation in Kids

    Parents can also understand why children display apathy, whether behavioral or social and develop solutions to help kids adapt better. Social apathy is a critical area to uncover if kids are shying away from social events or can’t communicate their feelings correctly. They may also be overwhelmed with social stimuli, in which case exploring compassion and empathy can help.

    3. Enhancing Their Collaborative Intuition

    Kids are intuitive in playing with one another, whether indoor activities or outdoor games. The challenge arises when they are given specific tasks to work through while collaborating with other kids.

    Children with a strengthened sense of empathy can understand other kids’ feelings and communicate accordingly. Kids may speak to teachers when their friends need help to exercise their compassionate or empathetic feeling.

    4. Boosting Creativity at a Young Age

    Kids may show a natural inclination towards instruments, art supplies, and cartoons, and they may even want to pursue their inner creativity. Teaching about compassionate vs. empathetic emotions can help them understand their artistic side to hone their abilities.

    Essential skills, such as self-expression, divergent thinking, communication, and emotional connecting, can be developed through empathetic exercises.  

    Exercises to Help Kids Understand Empathy & Compassion

    boys playing games and eating and laughing compassionate vs empathetic

    One of the best ways to help your children understand the importance and differences between empathy and compassion is to create fun learning activities. These can be quickly done at home in a casual setting through role-playing, storytelling, playtime, and other mediums. Parents can try different techniques to see what their children respond to the best.

    1. Perspective Shifting Story Exercises

    An essential technique to help kids understand empathy is to engage them in a story. You can use any story they like or a real-life event that allows them to respond empathetically.

    The story should involve them understanding the flow of the narrative and ultimately empowering them to make decisions.

    E.g., Jack and Abby were playing in the sandpit when a dog ran into Abby’s sandcastle. Abby began crying and was very sad that this had happened.

    Q. Why was Abby sad? Was it because Jack broke her sandcastle?
    Q. Why did the dog run into AAbby’scastle? Did he know not to do that?
    Q. What can Jack do to make Abby feel better?

    2. Role-Playing Compassion-Based Activities

    Role-playing is another excellent way to teach young ones about the gift of empathy and compassion. Having them be a part of a fictional world and letting them immerse themselves into the role is also a great idea. A few scenarios can be designed either by making them a superhero or playing a part of an architect or being a puppy owner.

    E.g., You are the owner of an ice cream shop, and your favorite customer just dropped their ice cream on the floor. Will you feel bad about what happened?

    • What feelings would you feel?
    • What can you do to make it better for them?
    • When do you feel empathy and compassion?  

    3. Third-Person Narrative Play

    A third-person narration of a story or an event can help drive the message even better for younger kids. Using their favorite toys to act out an event allows them to chime in with their thoughts as a third-person observer. This strengthens their perceptibility of a situation while making them more aware of multi-person emotions and feelings.

    E.g., Teddy and Boo bear were best friends and played with all their toys together. Boo bear had a favorite toy that she didn’t want to share. Teddy saw Boo bear’s toy and wanted to play with it. Teddy grabbed the toy out of the Boo bear’s arms, making Boo bear cry. Teddy didn’t know that Boo bear didn’t want to share that toy with anyone.

    Q. Why did Boo bear cry when Teddy took her favorite toy?
    Was Teddy wrong to do that to Boo bear?
    Should Teddy apologize to Boo bear?  

    4. Worksheet-Based Questions & Answers

    Worksheet-based questions help children understand the skill of communicating other people’s emotions. This helps them across areas such as comprehension, information processing, and social development. Worksheets can also be designed in conjunction with homework, allowing them to thoroughly explore all aspects of learning. These worksheets can be specific or open-ended to gauge emotional maturity, understanding, and the feeling of being compassionate vs. empathetic to a situation.

    E.g., Q. Matt and Jose are walking to school when they see their friend Rosie trip and fall on the ground. What should they do?

    Q. Raj is in the 4th grade with Susie and wants to borrow a pencil to finish his homework. Susie says no angrily. Should Raj also be angry towards Susie?

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    Why Teach Compassionate Vs. Empathetic to Kids

    Group of children laughing together compassionate vs empathetic

    Kids can learn through the magical eyes of wizards, animated creatures, and underwater explorers as they explore learning from an empathetic state of mind. This is especially helpful for kids that are visual learners and love talking about what they’ve learned through various mediums. Homeschoolers and online learners can access interactive comprehension and reading lessons through our platform.

    Have a question regarding SplashLearn? We are happy to talk through our entire catalog of engaging lessons. Reach out to us here, by email

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Why are empathy and compassion considered different?

    Compassion and empathy differ in the following ways –

    • Empathy relates to the feeling of understanding another person’s state of being. Compassion can be the driving force behind helping them.
    • Empathy can be signaled instantly when someone is in pain, while compassion can take a bit of understanding before acting.
    • Empathy can be felt largely by everyone, while compassion is the next state of feeling, prior to acting.
    • Empathy helps us understand pain and compassion helps us bond with someone over helping or understanding that pain.

    What are the types of empathy?

    Primarily, there are two main types of empathy.

    • Cognitive empathy, which involves the comprehension of another person’s feelings.
    • Emotional empathy, which includes feeling the person’s pain or happiness as a feeling within oneself.

    Can we lose empathy but have compassion?

    There are instances where people feel empathy fatigue, such as with parents & difficult children and caregivers & older patients. Compassion can still help us drive towards an action that can help alleviate pain or assist another in a situation.

    Can parents teach their kids to empathize with them?

    Parents can encourage kids to introspect about how they are feeling through emotive exercises and storytelling. Key traits, such as responsibility, friendliness, respectfulness, etc., can be taught through empathic activities.

    What is the connection between empathy and mindfulness?

    Compassionate vs. empathetic feelings can help kids become more mindful of others and themselves. They develop a stronger sense of self and emerge more cognizant about what others are feeling.

    Ursula Cruz
    Ursula Cruz writes on the subject of integration of technology in classrooms and the intersection of education and child development. In her free time, she likes going on hikes with her dog, Lucy.

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