I am sure you have all had a little person run to you with a boo-boo to kiss. How have you responded? Do you indulge them? Or do you tell them its all okay and get on with it!? Listen in as I share a lightbulb moment I had when Little Miss came running to me with a hurt finger. In that moment I learnt the importance of showing empathy – and not only being a good mum but being a kind human.
In that moment Your Kids need Empathy not Solutions
One day we had Little Miss here she was playing outside and something happened and she hurt her finger. Only minor – so minor I couldn’t see what she had done – but she came running to me, asking me to kiss it better. I on a whim gobbled it up (as in, pretended to eat it) instead of giving it a kiss. She was a little outraged – “don’t eat it! kiss it!” she demanded. So I kissed it, and she went back to play outside a happy little chickadee.
This made me think. Of course this scenario was repeated many times with each of my own kids – this is what little kids do – they come running to mum to kiss away any pain – big or small. It was her outrage – don’t eat it! Kiss it – that made me think.
What is it that they are asking for when they come running to mum asking to kiss it better? They aren’t just asking for attention (if they were, the gobbling it up would have done that for her) – what she was asking for was empathy.
The basic definition for Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
There is a Reason Parents need to show Empathy
Usually people talk about the benefits of being an empathetic parent in terms of being a role model to our kids, so that as they see us showing empathy so they can learn to show empathy to others. But sometimes we have to step back from the role of being a parent – and just be a person – picking up the responsibilities and right responses towards all we meet – including our children.
And when someone we are around is experiencing pain – the kind response is to understand and share in their feelings. To show empathy is to say that we see you, and that in this moment you are important.
We need to show empathy to our children – not just to teach them – but because trying to be aware of and understand our children’s emotions is the loving thing to do.
Sometimes we get so tied up being the parent, that we forget to be human.
To show empathy to anyone we need to stop what we are doing and focus on the other person – we need to listen and hear what they are saying, what they are really saying – we need to show compassion towards their need, not solutions towards their problem.
We need to pause and kiss the boo-boo. Not because it makes anything better, not physically – but emotionally the hurt is recognised and cared for. This is important in any relationship – not just my kids!
The reason I gobbled that little finger was because I wanted to inject some humour into the situation and divert a meltdown. Besides, the finger wasn’t really that hurt! Reflecting on my response – it was selfish; it was focused on what I wanted to move on with, not focused on her. Sure her response was unreasonable and out of proportion, but she needed to know that I was there for her – in the big times and the little times. And that is what happens when we pause and connect with a person’s pain – Empathy today will reassure them of empathy tomorrow.
The challenge is to put aside what I think or feel about the situation and think about where they are at – and respond accordingly. When you empathize, you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, trying to grasp their emotions, their perspective, or their situation. If I always bring my logic, my experience, my perspective and over-ride their’s I may consider myself to be practical, but I’m not showing empathy.
There will probably be time for practicality later – initially though empathy, understanding, and compassion is what is needed.
Am I prepared to slow down and show them my love – or does it always have to be about moving on with solutions?
Though my older kids don’t run to me with a pain so small you can hardly see it, they don’t want a bandaid or a kiss to make it better but they do want my empathy. They want me to understand and share in their feelings. Don’t we all want that? This skill of slowing down to show empathy is a parenting skill that we need for all ages and stages of being a parent.
When anyone stops and listens and tries to understand our pain – be it physical or emotional we feel understood, valued and supported. This will help us feel safe and be able to do something about our pain. Think about how you feel when you feel pain and go to someone for comfort. That should help put yourself in your child’s shoes so to speak.
Heart-focused Action Step
The heart-focused action step for this week is to become aware of how you respond when your child is in some sort of pain – do you jump to solutions or do you show empathy?
Feeling empathy is very much a in the moment response parents need to cultivate. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to move on to finding solutions – it is simply about taking the time to truly understand and connect with your child’s emotions before moving on.
Here are some skills that you can learn that will help you respond with empathy:
Stop & be available – Stop what you are doing and be present – physically and emotionally.
Validate their Emotions -Acknowledge their feelings, you might even have to label the feeling for them if they can’t. Express understanding for how they are feeling.
Ask Open-ended Questions – Ask questions that prompt them to talk about their thoughts, feelings and experiences so that you can gain a better understanding of where they are at.
Active listening – this is where you listen, and then reflect back what you’ve heard so that you can be sure you’ve understood them correctly. Give them time to confirm you’ve heard right.
Offer support – instead of giving solutions ask how you can help. If they don’t know how then assure them that you are there for them. When they are ready you can explore ideas together.
If you are like me and jump into fix it mode, with solutions, pretty quickly then it might take a while to get to the place where you slow the roll and think about their emotions first, where you can show empathy, and build a safe place for them to open up to you. But it is worth it.
So the challeng is –
Can I slow down from all that is on my to-do list and enter their world for just a moment – just because I care? Can I show them empathy, enter their emotions, and accept their ups and downs regardless of my opinion? I hope that we can.
And remember not everything in our family life needs to be about our kids learning a lesson – sometimes I just need to be a caring human!
🛑 Myth: “Showing empathy will spoil my child and make them overly emotional.” ⠀
🌟 Fact: Empathy is NOT indulgence! It’s about understanding emotions, not just giving in to every whim.
Do you feel hesitant to parent with empathy because you think it will allow your child to be ruled by their emotions – and even affect other people with their out-of-control emotions? Let me just assure you – that is not empathy.
When we validate our child’s feelings, we’re helping them build emotional intelligence and resilience. It’s not about coddling – it’s about nurturing their emotional well-being. 💪💕 ⠀
Showing empathy is the first step to breaking away from this misconception.
We all need to learn how to feel our feelings – and yet not let them dictate our life.
What do you think? Is empathy something a parent should show toward their child? Or does this go over the top? Share your thoughts below! 👇
It is hard to break the habits of jumping in with a solution before acknowledging your child’s emotions. If you struggle with showing empathy learn these 5 phrases so that at least one of them comes to the front of mind when your child is next feeling all the feels.
1–”I can see that you’re feeling [emotion].”
2–”It’s okay to feel [emotion], everyone feels this way sometimes.”
3–”Tell me more about what’s going on. I’m here to listen.”
4–”I understand that [situation] must have been tough for you.”
5–”You’re not alone in feeling this way. I’m here for you.”
These phrases tell your child that you are there for them, listening and accepting where ever they are at.
⏳When we take the time to understand our children’s feelings, we create a safe space where they can express themselves freely – this helps us help them. 🌟
When we just jump in with a solution, we teach them that:
- They need to move on from their emotions 😕
- That we don’t have time for their issues ⏰
- That we are the ones with the solutions. 💡
If we want to teach our children to self-regulate their emotions and self-govern their choices, we need to give them the opportunity to process their emotions and then understand how to do what is right. They also need to be able to problem-solve or brainstorm solutions for themselves. This is a part of them growing into healthy emotional beings. 🌱
It all starts when we slow down enough to listen to them and accept them.💕 When put like that – it’s pretty important that we learn to show our kids empathy when they are hurt.
💬⬇️Have you read any picture books that have helped in your family in the area of expressing our emotions? I’d love to see some recommendations in the comments. 📚
Teaching our children about empathy is like planting seeds of kindness and understanding. 🌱💕 When they learn to show empathy, they’re building bridges of connection and relationships rooted in Jesus-like love. 🤝✨
Our kids often notice when a friend is sad, yet they might overlook their own siblings. By intentionally discussing and practicing empathy within the family, we not only strengthen the bonds that hold us together but also provide daily chances to nurture this vital skill.
When empathy is missing, signs include frustration among siblings, an inability to truly listen, and a sense of self-centeredness. 🙅♂️🤷♀️
You can foster empathy within your family by:
🌟 Leading by Example – showing empathy to your kids and spouse.
🌟 Teaching the Language of Empathy – help your children understand its importance and how it looks.
🌟 Encouraging Open Conversations – make time for feelings and discussions.
🌟 Exploring Feelings in Stories – dive into tales that highlight emotions.
Being intentional in teaching empathy equips your family with a social skill that brightens every relationship they encounter. Let’s cultivate a world where empathy thrives! 🌍❤️
⬇️💬What’s a favorite story or movie that teaches valuable lessons about empathy?