How Empathy Transforms Your Child's Well-being
Created by Swapna Nair Updated on Oct 22, 2018
Most of us know that empathy means to understand how another feels. How do we understand what the other is feeling? When it comes to our children how do we understand?
Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another – Alfred Adler. This would mean we have to be truly connected with the other.
The greatest gift a parent can give a child is empathy. Empathy makes one connected to humanity. When the parent is empathetic, the learning is transferred to the child. The child grows up to be humane and balanced.
Empathy does not mean that you give freedom without limits. It does not mean that you should not be strict. It does not mean that you agree upon everything with your children.
Empathy requires you to be understanding. This comes only if you are connected to your child and your child understands that you are connected. All parents love their children. Yet there are millions of children who claim that their parents do not love them. Hence it is important that your child understands and knows that you love him/her.
Empathy is the cornerstone of Emotional Intelligence. As parents, we are responsible for the regulation of emotions in our children. All of us come with our own emotional baggage. How do we prevent this baggage from hurting our children’s lives? It can happen only if we begin to see and understand from the child’s perspective. The moment we see from their perspective, feel from their perspective, we will feel connected with them. We will truly understand them. Again I emphasize understanding is not agreeing.
Let’s say that your 3-year-old is throwing a tantrum. Be near. After a few minutes just hug your child. Accept that he/she is upset. Do not negate the feeling. Your child is angry. Tell him/her, ‘ you are angry. I am here. I love you. Let’s see what we can do about it.’ Your child may not stop crying immediately. In fact, they may cry more. Is it not natural? When we are feeling low or upset and if someone approaches us with kindness we would certainly tear up is it not. It is the same with your little one. At their tender age, they do not know how to regulate their emotions. So we have to guide them.
Do not wipe their tears and say it is ok, don’t cry. That would teach them to push away feelings. Rather teach them to accept their feelings. Yes, it is hard. Let’s see what can be done.
Here again, empathy does not mean solving their issues. Instead, you are guiding them to brainstorm for solutions, guiding them to resolve their little problems. So when your child comes to you with a problem it does not mean you take up the daggers and fight for them.
Empathy is accepting your child unconditionally. So if your child is feeling ashamed/ guilty about something, embarrassed about something, your child would know it is alright to feel so. He/she will know that they can share with you and you would understand.
Empathy does not mean that you validate their feelings by just agreeing with them. Imagine your 4-year-old comes to you angry that his friend has irritated him. If you say, ‘oh yes how can that boy do this..’ you are not teaching empathy. Instead, teach your child to look at the problem. If your child is being bullied then teach him to be assertive. If it was a mistake, help him recognize it.
Hence if you strive to be empathetic, your child would grow up to be self -regulated. This would ensure his mental health and well-being.
As a routine introduce your child to orphanages and old age homes. Guide your children to talk with respect to people who work for you.
Above all set the example for your children to follow!