The world came to a standstill, and as everyone was asked to follow the directives given by health experts and stay home, they hoped that COVID-19 would be an issue sorted in months. Unfortunately, there is a continued demand for people to social distance as different virus mutations are discovered, more than a year since people were separated from their loved ones.

This idea of isolation and lack of physical connections new to most of the population and its extensiveness also take a toll. While people are separated, empathy is one of the many core aspects of humanity that has kept the connections.

What is the relationship between social distancing and empathy?

The expression and the source of this crucial connection with others are now seen through social media, whether it’s a story that evokes emotions, a course that moves the world, or challenges and international hobbies like baking banana bread.

Some people struggle with empathy, while some don’t understand it, and seeing how it is essential in surviving the pandemic; beg the question, can empathy be taught? The idea of empathy is to relate to humanity, acknowledge varying perspectives, and respect them.

People on a zoom call
Photo by Dylan Ferreira on Unsplash

This is not something that is covered in the education system, and while some educators incorporate lessons of empathy in their course, it is not something you will find in every class. Thus, you might find a student who does not understand the concept and is struggling to stay connected to the world while social distancing.

Since it is unlikely that these students will cover anything on empathy in their academic journey, it is best to find ways to understand what empathy is, how it works, and why it is essential to everyone. It also helps to know you can get some assignments done at when you feel a little disconnected and want to focus on finding and understanding the best ways of staying connected. You can take a breath and focus on things other than your work at college.

Having some of the load taken off during a school year allows you to take a breath and really see those around you. If you are in school and have wondered the best way on how to empathize with your mates, you can use either of the following methods as a start and incorporate the others later on.

5 Tips for Teaching Empathy in the era of Social Distancing

Curiosity and Play

Learning tailored to allow a student to explore their interests, creativity, and imagination makes them happy and sparks innovation and encourages experimentation. This allows the learner to focus on the process, rather than the result, which, in turn, teaches them to focus on the now. This, and the freedom they get from discovering who they are, guides them to have regard for others at the moment, and it guides them to show empathy.

Diversifying Learning

The western education system is used in most of the world. This means that school, tests, grading, and classrooms are the sole source of learning for many. The awareness of this lack informs the adamant push for clubs and participation in sports. All thought there is more access in college; many spend time writing assignments. Introducing different methods of teaching and new types of education sparks wonder. Sometimes it might be enough to simply introduce students to different writing styles and formats.  Learning from various perspectives allows students to evaluate and analyze things differently, allowing them to approach situations and people in the same way.


Most interactions people have now as they maintain social distance is through screens. Technology creates a connection whether it’s a student having a lesson on zoom or a parent at a meeting. While social media and all the tools designed to cope with the pandemic help with empathy, technology offers more.

Two interesting empathy activities for kids you can consider are using drones to explore more places if they cannot move around much. This way, they can use this experience to bond while learning about landscapes and terrain.

Also, automating some conversations with learners will allow the teacher to focus on more human-oriented discussions and offer emotional support.

Modeling Empathy

Children do what they see, not what you tell them. This is because it is easier to follow by example instead of figuring out what something means and how to do it. What does empathy mean? If you tell someone to show empathy, they wouldn’t know where to start if they don’t know what that means.


Honesty and openness create an environment of trust and security. When talking to people, one thing to keep in mind is that they are complete human beings, despite their age, and they deserve respect. Do not dismiss their emotions, fears, and anxiety.


While empathy is mostly viewed as something you project outward, it stems from within. It is impossible to stay connected with others if you aren’t connected to yourself. Therefore, as you teach empathy in the era of social distancing, you should also teach self-reflection and self-care.