Colleagues from a new study that tracked adolescents into adulthood found teenagers who are more secure in their family relationships experience a better chance of developing empathy.
The journal Child Development published these findings on July 15. The findings suggest teens with a more supportive and secure family relationship environment offer more empathetic support to their friends. Empathy, which develops with time, has a great impact on a teen’s:
- Social interactions
- Adult relationships
And, adolescence is a vital development stage for the growth of empathy, according to this research. Empathy provides the ability to stand in another person’s shoes, care about that person’s well-being and resonate with their emotions.
Teens who show more empathy show less prejudice, are less aggressive, and aren’t as likely to bully other people. Empathy begins with the feeling of being connected and safe. Parents can provide their teens with a firsthand experience of empathy by building a secure relationship that’s marked by emotional safety, trust, and responsiveness. This sets the foundation for them to begin sharing this empathy with other people.
The study showed teenagers at the age of 14 who felt more secure with their family relationships displayed more empathetic support in early adolescence to their friends. They also experienced a higher level of empathy over time. Those feeling less secure were less empathetic at first but improved by the time they were 18 years old. This suggests teenagers with a more secure home life gain empathetic skills faster but do eventually gain these skills as they become older.
Ways to Boost Teens’ Empathy, Happiness, and Well-Being
Parents can boost their teen’s happiness, well-being, and ability to show empathy by offering encouragement and praise, setting clear boundaries and rules, and providing a warm, healthy family relationship and home.
Some ways parents can do this are:
- Providing their teens with praise when they behave in certain ways, such as doing chores, helping out around the house, or getting their homework done.
- Providing their teens with positive attention, such as watching them play sports, giving them a hug or smile, or sending them a friendly text message.
- Valuing their teens’ strengths and praising them for who they are. This helps their teens feel good about themselves.
- Setting boundaries and rules to help their teens feel safe when various things are changing in their lives. Involving their teens in making the rules and negotiating rules with them can also show them respect for their growing maturity.
There is still a lot that’s unknown about teenagers’ empathy. Learning how to effectively nurture empathy in teenagers is important to build a more empathetic society.