When kids have poor mirror response, the mirror neurons in their brain don't effectively allow them to feel what the people in front of them and around them are feeling. Despite having poor mirror response, it does not mean that your child will always lack empathy. In fact, there are some simple ways to improve empathy in kids with poor mirror response. Here are some of the most effective:
Coaching Them Through Emotions
Rather than downplay or dismiss your child's own difficult emotions, acknowledge them, then talk them through the experience of having them. Being coached through emotions helps them tolerate the emotions and understand them better. This helps them to recognize similar experiences in others, and then to empathize since they've been through the same emotional experience.
Parents and educators should regularly model empathy for kids. By showing what it is like to empathize with someone who is hurting, children can cognitively learn how to do the same. They can then repeat the behavior, even if they don't experience a mirror response to the feelings they've encountered in another.
Using Books, Movies, and Stories
Teach children empathy with art and fiction that shows characters empathizing. Discuss empathy in the stories, and explain how characters are showing kindness and compassion for one another. By showing what fictional characters do in scenarios where empathy is necessary, kids can also learn what they should do in a setting where they should be empathizing.
Work on Improving Face Reading Skills
If kids don't naturally feel others’ emotions with mirror neurons, then they can learn to get better at reading faces. Show them photographs of people modeling specific emotions. Then have them identify the emotions. If they're unsure, teach them what the emotion is. Once they learn to decipher emotions based on what people's faces look like, they can get better at empathizing with what those people are feeling.
As a parent, it is heart-wrenching to watch your child struggle. On average, Parents saw a 43% improvement, in their child’s ability to empathize following the completion of the Brain Balance program*. Brain Balance has worked with over 25,000 children and their families and we know we can help yours, too. Contact us to learn more.
*Results based on a parent evaluation form filled out pre and post-program where the parents ranked a set of statements about their child, on a scale from 0-10 (0=not observed/does not apply and 10=frequently observed). Statement: Child lacks empathy and may be insensitive to other's feelings – 43% improvement for median student (2016-2018 data for 2,587 students where parents reported this issue).