Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It's an important skill to have in our relationships, at work, and in our day-to-day lives. As parents, we want our children to know that we understand and care about their feelings. But sometimes it can be difficult to know how to show empathy.
Here are six ways you can show your child empathy and help them feel loved and understood:
Does your child need advice or does he only need a listening ear? Sometimes, when our children or anyone we love is upset, we feel the urge to jump in and try to fix the problem. In some cases, this serves our needs more than theirs.
So, establish that you are here for whatever your child needs and ask her exactly what that is.
When someone is sharing something with you, give them your full attention. Put away your phone, make eye contact, and really listen to what they're saying. Show that you're interested in what your child is saying by asking follow-up questions.
It’s all about being present at the moment and truly connecting with the other person.
If your child comes to you with a problem, it is not an invitation to judge or lecture them. Instead, try to see things from your child's perspective. Imagine how they must be feeling—not in terms of how you would feel if you were in the situation but through the lens of their own personality, experiences and capabilities.
Let your child know that it's okay to feel the way they do, even if it doesn’t completely make sense to you. Help them understand that all feelings are valid, and none of them last forever. Teach your children how to label their emotions, without categorizing them as good or bad.
Finally, let them know that you’re there for them, no matter what they are feeling.
When we see someone we care about going through a tough time, our natural inclination is to reach out and offer comfort. Sometimes a hug or a kind word is all it takes to show that you care. Don’t forget the magic of oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone:” it is released when we experience positive social interactions, like hugging, kissing, or even just holding hands.
Allowing them to take their time helps children to feel valued and respected, and it sets a positive example for how to deal with challenging situations. It also helps to build a strong foundation of trust between parents and children.
Recognize that children are still learning and growing, and they don't always have the same understanding or perspective as adults.