Empathy supports the development of emotional self-awareness. When we, as parents, regularly empathize with our kids, we teach lifelong tools to process feelings. Our job is to help them experience their emotions as appropriate to the situation. We can allow them to own their feelings without shame. We can also normalize feelings, helping them understand that most people would feel the same way in a similar situation. In addition, we can assist them to develop language for identifying and expressing different emotions.
The earlier we start, the more practice your child gets, which could potentially lead to more manageable teenage years (yes, please!) The next time your child becomes emotional, which should be in the next 15 minutes, you can say something like “I imagine you’re feeling frustrated because I turned off the TV, when you really wanted to watch another show. Is that what you’re feeling? Frustrated with me? That makes sense, and I would feel the same way. I love my shows, and have a hard time when dad wants to change the channel to watch his show.”
Imagine the impact on your own development if your parents had regularly empathized with you when you were upset as a kid. Or if your partner empathized with you when you feel hurt or scared in your relationship. Remember that empathy breeds empathy – when children internalize empathy for themselves, they can then offer it to other people. Pretty important, right?!
To learn more about communication tools such as empathy, contact Grace McDonald Counselling today!