Doctor Rosemary Roberts: Empathy - Transcript

Doctor Rosemary Roberts: Empathy - Transcript

Doctor Rosemary Roberts: Empathy

There is a really important aspect of supporting children’s development which we quite often touch on and maybe think about, but how to do it is very challenging I think, and that is for very young children, how do we support babies and young children to develop a sense of empathy within themselves.

It seems to be about this that it is a wonderful illustration of what you do is so much more powerful than what you say, especially with very young children. And I would suggest that we haven’t a hope of telling babies and young children to be kind to other children, and to take it in turns and so on, before they have got the idea. How do they get the idea? And I think they get the idea by seeing this happening around them. So my one line answer to practitioners, professionals working with very young children and families, is that we need to model it ourselves.

So we can model it on three levels; we can show our empathy with babies and young children directly to them, and we have been talking about all of that in terms of anchored attention, and listening carefully to children, and learning together and all that stuff, so we are modelling empathy there. We need to model empathy to families; to parents, and the other companion of the child. I think there is a wonderfully important little group around each child that any key worker ever has, which is all their other companions. You are a companion, who are the other companions, what do we know about them, and how do we find out about them, and are we empathic, and that can be very challenging in terms of diversity, and different values and that sort of thing, and it is very, very important that we come to grips with that. But it isn’t just that it needs doing for its own sake, it is about modelling it for babies and young children.

And here is another really interesting one. Babies and young children, especially in all day day-care, how much do they pick up from the extent of practitioners empathy with each other? What about the relationships that we have with our colleagues, and how those work, and how much do we let babies and young children in on that dynamic, and how much do we welcome them knowing that we are really interested in what our colleague is saying, and that we like that idea, and we would like to follow that lead, and we really value that person. That may be happening, but it’s a shame if children and babies don’t have a chance to see that that is happening. So it’s about actually modelling those three things.

And I think that in terms of long term empathy, for children they need two things, they need to actually experience what it feels like for that to happen to them, so that is why we need to be clear about being empathic with young children, why relationships are so important. So that they get to know what it feels like, so that when in a ragged moment, and we are exhausted, and we say you wouldn’t like it if he did it to you, actually that does mean something. Mostly it doesn’t, but if they felt what it feels like to get it right then they do. And so they need to know what it feels like, and they need to see what it looks like with other people, and I think that’s how we can help them with that.