4 Keys to Produce Empathy Among Adolescents

Do you know why it's important to generate empathy among adolescents? We'll tell you why and tell you how you can do it.
4 Keys to Produce Empathy Among Adolescents

Last update: 26 March, 2022

A secure attachment and solid family relationships can be a predictor when it comes to generating empathy among adolescents, according to several studies on this subject.

Although many myths portray adolescents as selfish people who only think about themselves, there’s research that shows that adolescence is one of the key moments for the development of empathy. This is a skill that we acquire over time and is fundamental to having positive social interactions, making friends, and improving the future social relationships of adolescents as adults.

Empathy among adolescents: What is empathy?

Empathy can be defined as the ability of people to put themselves in the place of others, to understand their emotions, as well as to care about their well-being. This ability is fundamental in order to establish positive relationships with others and to develop as a person. Some of its characteristics are that:

  • It helps us in the development and adaptation of our emotions.
  • It improves relationships with others.
  • It favors our understanding of ourselves.
  • It allows us to be accepted and loved by others.
  • It helps the development of sociability, which is essential to having good social skills.
  • For all these reasons, it helps to strengthen our self-esteem, balance, and security.

How to produce empathy among adolescents?

The study “Here for You: Attachment and the Growth of Empathic Support for Friends in Adolescence “, published in the journal Child Development and led by psychology professor Joseph P. Allen, shows that adolescents who show greater empathic support for their friends are those who have a secure attachment and family relationships. This research followed 184 children from adolescence to adulthood.

Children who received support and care from their parents or caregivers, especially in times of stress or anxiety, establish a secure attachment. In the interviews conducted with adolescents, children were classified as secure if they valued and described their family relationships in a clear and balanced way.

In this research, it was observed that those boys or girls who had secure family relationships offered more empathic support to their friends during their adolescence, and also showed high empathy over time. It was also found that adolescents with initially low levels of empathy improved their ability over time. They almost caught up with securely attached adolescents by the age of 18.

This finding indicates that children naturally gain empathic skills as they grow up. However, those who have early family relationships and secure attachment may do so more quickly. Another result of this research shows that adolescents’ friends sought support from those who had secure family relationships, as they had more opportunity to receive it.

Some keys to generate empathy among adolescents

According to the study mentioned above, some of the keys to producing empathy among adolescents may be:

Parents should provide their children with secure family relationships and attachment from an early age

If parents or caregivers meet and address the emotional needs of their children from an early age, when they’re adolescents, they’re more inclined to show empathy and offer help to those who are in danger or in trouble. For this reason, it’s important that as parents we strive to develop a secure attachment in our children. We should always show them our physical and emotional support, so that they know they can count on us.

Friendships provide a key environment for generating empathy among adolescents

Children who offer emotional support and help other boys or girls encourage adolescents to practice empathic giving and receiving support (understanding their conflicts, offering help, and making them feel supported).

Help them discover what they have in common with other adolescents

Teens are more likely to show empathic support for other adolescents if they identify with them. When kids feel that they’re similar to their peers, they’re more likely to empathize. Therefore, it’s important for them to discover what they have in common with other kids in order to develop their empathic skills.

Help them feel connected and safe

Work on self-confidence and emotional safety with teens. This will help them to be empathetic with others.

Two teens talking.

On the importance of producing empathy among adolescents

As you’ve seen in this article, it’s possible to generate empathy among adolescents, and this way, they’re less aggressive and have fewer prejudices. Therefore, they’re much less likely to bully other children.

According to the research we’ve presented here, empathy starts with feeling safe and connected to one’s family. Building secure relationships based on emotional security, trust, and responsiveness to problems play an important role in this. All of this can help adolescents to have first-person experiences of empathy, so they’ll be empathetic people in the future.

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