Siblings Can Teach Each Other Empathy

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By Haley Ballard, MSW, LSW – July 11, 2024 –

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It is an important skill for children to develop, because it helps them understand and connect with others from all walks of life. Ensuring that your children learn about empathy will allow them to deepen their relationships with friends and other loved ones.

One of my closest relationships is with my little sister. I have spent more quality time with my sister than I have with anyone else, because we grew up so close and we still spend time with each other any chance we get. She knows how to make me laugh so hard, but she also knows how to push my buttons. Any emotion you can think of – excitement, pride, loss – I have felt with my sister. We have learned a lot about empathy by going through our major life experiences together.

When my sister was graduating from high school and had been accepted into college I felt so proud of her. I saw the struggle and the effort she put into her homework every night as I tried my best to help her understand math and writing prompts. I saw the pride in her face as she walked across the stage in her cap and gown at her high school graduation to receive her diploma. We also shared excitement as she opened up her college acceptance letter and received academic scholarships. In those moments, I could really empathize with her because it reminded me of how I felt when I graduated and was accepted into college.

When our family dog of twelve years died, my sister was there for me and I was there for her. I felt no one else understood what I was feeling better than she did, because we felt the hurt and loss together. We sat, cried, and talked about all the wonderful and silly memories we had of our dog running around in the snow, stealing our blankets, and the time she ate a whole pie while we were gone. Grieving the loss of our dog helped us connect and mutually feel love and loss.

My sister and I have helped each other go through the “ups and downs” of life. Because she has been there with me through it all, I have learned to connect more with her through the emotions we share. She has helped me learn to connect with others by being able to fully understand and share the feelings others go through.

Take the time to talk about and give names to feelings with your children to help them learn about empathy. Use real-life situations happening with siblings as a way to talk about and process their feelings. Be sure to point out when they are (or are not) showing empathy towards their siblings and help them practice it through their interactions with each other. This will help them develop their relationships as siblings and with other people in their lives.