Three young girls celebrating New Year’s Eve together with sparklers.

Family New Year’s Intentions to Build Empathy

As this year comes to a close, it is the perfect time to take personal inventory and reflect on the things we wish to improve upon. For families, especially those with teens, it’s important to focus on building empathy, often an essential part of improving mental health and relationships with others. While teaching empathy to teens can be a difficult task, life experiences and deliberate changes in their habits can help them along the way. So, in the coming year, consider encouraging the whole family to make kindness their mission!

Keep reading for our best empathy building strategies.

Considering Others

Empathy is about understanding and even sharing in the feelings of another. It can be a tricky feat, especially for, let’s say, siblings who don’t get along. Sometimes it can be hard to think about what it must feel like to be in another person’s shoes. But doing so can bring on a wave of emotions, care, and love for another person. Especially when someone is expressing their emotions or opinions, imagining another’s feelings can help to better understand their perspective. So, this coming year, encourage your family to work on being more aware of others’ circumstances and feelings. Whether it is someone we know or not, each day, we can be more mindful about how someone else’s situation would feel for us.

Active Listening

When we think of listening, we know that it is not quite the same as simply hearing. But active listening takes this one giant step further. It is a practice of offering full attention to someone who is speaking. It entails understanding and processing what the other person is saying, without interrupting. Consider teaching empathy to teens by recommending learning active listening in the coming year. Not only can it benefit family relationships, but friendships too. We can all practice waiting until a person is finished before speaking or drawing any conclusions about what they said. Let your teen know to show that they care by asking relevant questions to clarify and build on the conversation by repeating back some of the essential information they gathered. Ultimately, everyone can work together on showing genuine interest in others’ words and perspectives.

Offer Support

As a parent, offering support and encouragement is part of the job. But sometimes it can slip the mind, it’s natural! For teens, it is still a learning process. But it is something they need to figure out to be a good sibling and friend. So, this year, ask the family to consider making support and encouragement a priority. They can make a goal each week to ask someone how they can help or check in on how someone else is feeling. This often means validating emotions by expressing understanding and care for how someone is feeling, even if we don’t necessarily agree with their perspective. But making an effort to validate them, it demonstrates that we are taking them seriously.

Making Amends

Let’s face it — conflict happens! In fact, it’s a normal part of being a member of a family. The important thing is to practice forgiveness. Setting pride aside can be difficult, especially when we have to admit when we are wrong and apologize for it. The whole family can make it a priority to self-reflect and give others the benefit of the doubt by being patient and hearing another person out, even when it feels hard. A New Year’s resolution for teens can be to work on acknowledging if they created a conflict scenario, or have hurt someone’s feelings. They can recognize that the other person’s feelings are valid and take responsibility. This is a key aspect of demonstrating the awareness of the powerful impact words can hold.

Practicing Self-Love

Working on patience and understanding with others is crucial, but it can be just as important for teens to learn to have empathy for themselves, especially when they face a challenge. Maybe they are having a hard time with a math concept at school, or maybe they had a falling out with a friend. In order to learn, heal, and grow, teens have to give themselves the grace they need to love themselves through it and find a positive solution to their challenges. This coming year, encourage the whole family to practice self-love. Each day, they can remind themselves that they are doing their best or write down something they are proud of about themselves.

At Tilly’s Life Center, we believe that teaching empathy to teens is crucial. Our mission is to provide a social and emotional learning curriculum to offer teen mental health resources that can help them have more positive and fulfilling lives and relationships. To learn more, visit us at Until then, have a happy end of the year!