Little People and Empathy: Stand in Their Small Shoes


Dear Nurturer,


To learn anything well, I must see and experience you showing me first.  Throughout our days together, you teach me many things whether you intend to or not.  I am always watching you! 

I am also always wondering if you are understanding me.

Show me you understand my feelings, needs, and wants by intentionally considering life from my point of view. This is the true definition of empathy.

I need to experience your kindness, patience, care, comfort, and joy.  I also need to experience your healthy expressions of hard-to-feel emotions like sadness, frustration, and anger.  I will be feeling all of these things throughout my life, too.

I need to know that all my BIG feelings are normal and acceptable. 

Most of all, I need to know I am loved deeply and cared for no matter how BIG my feelings get.  

You can set the foundation in my brain during my earliest years by how you respond to me and others. This is huge, lifelong work for us both!


What is empathy?


Empathy is often described as “standing in someone else’s shoes.” It is one of the greatest gifts one human being can give to another.  It is at the core of being able to form relationships with others.   

To give the gift of empathy, we must pause, imagine how an experience makes someone feel, and honor that individual’s feelings.  

Showing empathy means letting others feel what they are feeling.  No fixing or controlling, even when that other person is a very young child. 

Empathy allows another person to have hard-to-feel emotions that may make us a bit (or a lot!) uncomfortable. It strives to understand and show compassion.

It says, “All of you is welcome with me, come rain or shine!” 

How-To Guide

How is empathy fostered in my young deaf or hard-of-hearing child?


Though empathy involves some action, it is mostly about being present and modeling empathy for your child.  It means “meeting your child just where she is” emotionally. It means acceptance and compassion even in the most challenging feelings.

When you stand in your child’s shoes, she learns to stand in others’ shoes as she grows!

You have the opportunity as your little one’s main nurturer to:

Become your child’s “emotional mirror.”

Show your child with your own face that you are paying attention to his feelings. This builds awareness of how our faces and bodies reflect our emotions.
Show Me How >

Become your child’s empathy role model.

Seeing and experiencing empathy leads to internalizing empathy.
Show Me How >

Become your child’s narrator.

With daily intention, tell your child about his feelings, your feelings, and the feelings of those around you.
Show Me How >

Be your child’s social-emotional coach.

Come alongside your little one to show, tell, and guide her through the complexities of understanding her emotions and others'.
Show Me How >

Affirm displays of empathy.

Notice all that your little one is doing well, and have a little party on the spot!
Show Me How >

Invite opportunities for empathy into play.

Teaching empathy via play is a great learning tool.
Show Me How >

Set loving limits.

Mistakes are part of healthy growth. Limits are loving.
Show Me How >


How does empathy help my deaf or hard of hearing child throughout his entire life?

When you pour empathy into my life, it will overflow into others’ lives!

Strong Sense of Self


  • Knows separateness from others (autonomy)
  • Aware of the power to make choices that will affect self and others
  • Treats self with compassion, especially during times of struggle
  • Able to receive and give comfort
  • Can respond in healthy ways even in distressing situations


Healthy Relationships


  • Understands that others have needs, perspectives, and feelings that are different
  • Able to be a kind and caring sibling, friend, and student
  • Develops dependable relationships that help protect against stress
  • Helps others in family, classroom, and community.

Curious To Learn More?

Check out our additional Relationship Resources for more information on nurturing your child. 

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