Sometimes I just can’t be empathetic to my kids. In fact I find their meltdowns and upset beyond annoying. All I want to say to them is; “You have got to be kidding me. I don’t have time to listen to your feelings. I am busy. Mommy has things to do!” It is in those moments where I can’t find the empathy; it’s buried in a world of me, me, me! The narcissist in me comes out and says, “Why are you doing this to me? All I do is cook and clean and drive you around, making sure you have the best life I can provide! What’s wrong with you?”
Then I take a breath and remember that the key to this whole parenting thing is empathy. I am an empathetic person, and I do know, from trying everything under the sun with my own kids and from working with others, that empathy is the silver bullet to parenting.
When children feel listened to and understood, their hurt goes away. As adults who know how to regulate our own emotions, we can understand when a child is upset because we have been there. Does the child crying over the sandwich being cut the wrong way send you over the moon? Well just think of it as less about the sandwich and more about the backlog of emotional upsets that have become wedged in our kid's little souls. They need to get it out, and they need a loving shoulder to cry on.
Empathy is actually “feeling” something from another person’s point of view. Empathy comes from the insula in our right brain, which is suspected to be the center of intimacy. So when a child “feels” your empathy they become connected to you intimately. The same goes for adults; we become connected to them when we can empathize.
Just a few sincere words here and there lets your child know that you have acknowledged their feelings without fixing, agreeing, trying to cheer up or change their mind. You are just being there in the moment with your most understanding self.
Here are a few phrases you can try this week:
“I see you are having a hard time”
“ I understand how you feel”
“I am here for you”
“I will never leave you when you are upset”
“I know you really wanted…….”
See if these can jump-start your empathetic self.